The Arameans or the Syriacs are a people with a glorious history, but are now in danger of being forgotten as well as being quite frequently misrepresented. The Arameans of Mesopotamia were the first pagans who had accepted the Christian faith.
Tur ‘Abdin, which basically denotes “the mountain of the servants [sc. of God]” in Aramaic, is the local name of an erstwhile densely populated Christian region in Southeast-Turkey.
The vast majority of its indigenous citizens have, for obvious reasons, migrated to Western countries in recent decades and the emerging demographic vacuum was swiftly filled by myriads of infiltrating Kurdish tribes from the periphery and beyond.
ARAMAIC & SYRIAC
The introduction of the name ‘Syriac’ has, admittedly, created a certain amount of ambiguity. Not only as regards the Aramaic language and culture, but also with respect to the Aramean people.
In 1983, the current Syrian Orthodox Patriarch rightly wrote in The Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch At A Glance: “The Syriac language is the Aramaic language itself, and the Arameans are the Syrians themselves. He who has made a distinction between them has erred.”
The Arameans trace their genealogical lines back to the eponymous ancestor Aram, the son of Shem, the son of Noah (Genesis 10:1, 22)1. In pre-Christian times, notably between 1150-700 B.C., they played a crucial and decisive role in Mesopotamia and ancient Syria2.
The uncompromising premise of the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) is that the Aramean (Syriac) people and their Aramaic language are native to Southeast Turkey. Their historical presence in this region spans more than 3,000 years.
The ancient Arameans have traditionally been viewed as “camel nomads”1 who “spread out from the fringes of the Syro-Arabian desert,”2 whence a segment of “the Aramean tribes invaded northern Mesopotamia, and founded there a series of little states.”3
This view, though, emerged from a broader context about the origins of the ‘Semites’.4 Within this group, the Arameans are generally classified as belonging to the (North)western branch; the Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians, for instance, are regarded as East-Semites.