History's deadliest pattern

‘After Saturday Comes Sunday’ examines religious persecution

By Stephen Jones

After Saturday Comes Sunday.JPG

The dreadful attacks against Christians in the Middle East by the Islamic State group (ISIL) follows an unfortunate, familiar pattern of genocidal religious persecution. Susan Adelman’s book, After Saturday Comes Sunday, pulls back the curtain on religious violence in the Middle East, focusing on massacres suffered by early Christian churches, the genocide of Armenians, Syrians and Greeks in 1915, and the present-day destruction carried out by ISIL.

The book itself is a call to action, its title is a warning.

“The title of the book, After Saturday Comes Sunday, is something that my Christian friends have told me about for years, a warning they used to hear from their neighbors in the Middle East,” Adelman said. “What it means is: after we finish off the Saturday people (the Jews), we will finish you off, the Christian people. As I show in the book, today could well be Sunday.”

Adelman, a retired pediatric surgeon, was inspired to write this book through her friendship with 92-year-old Norma Hakim.

“I met Norma when I was called to operate on a 9-year-old nephew of hers who had come recently from Iraq and who did not speak English,” Adelman said. “Norma and another aunt came to the hospital to translate for him, and Norma became a real partner in managing what turned out to be a long, life-threatening and complicated condition. Soon, she enfolded me into her family.”

Over 40 years, Adelman and Hakim shared stories with one another as Adelman became more and more embedded in Hakim’s amorous, extended Chaldean family. As Adelman learned details of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East from Hakim’s stories, she became enamored with their culture, starting with their language and historic origins.

“It was precisely because of my relationship with Norma and her family that I felt so deeply about the devastation that ISIS has caused to the Chaldean and Assyrian people in Iraq and surrounding countries,” said Adelman. “I wrote the book to urge the American people to help them.”

Adelman recognized that few in the U.S. fully grasp what is at stake for Chaldeans, and wanted to share Hakim’s story so that others might be inspired in the same way that she was.

“I devoted a chapter of the book to Norma to introduce the reader to the Chaldean people, to convey a feeling for who they are, and to show what kind of warm, loving people are at risk today in the Middle East,” Adelman said. “These endangered people who barely have survived ISIS need to resettle in their villages if they ever expect to keep their culture and their 3000-year-old language, Aramaic, alive.”

Hakim, whom the book is dedicated to, knows that Chaldeans are in a deadly battle to save their culture from being vanquished. She is not sure if political aid is realistic, but was willing to share her experiences so that people would understand the rich Chaldean culture and history and develop a sense of empathy for their struggles.

Adelman uses the Aramaic language to showcase similarities between all victims of religious persecution. Aramaic was the language of the Assyrian Empire, Babylonian Empire and early Persian Empires. Jews adopted the language from their time spent living in Syria and spoke it in their homes for thousands of years.

“The survival of Aramaic is the thread that ties together the stories that I tell of Chaldeans, Assyrians and Kurdish Jews, who have shared much of the same history,” Adelman said. “In fact, I also tell the story of Batya, a Kurdish Jewish woman who now lives in Jerusalem, but who comes from a village in northern Iraq, just as Norma does.”

Years ago, the Saturday People (Jews) escaped religious violence by fleeing to Israel to create a majorly Jewish state that has experienced economic freedom and prosperity. If good prevails, history will repeat itself in this way for the Sunday People (Chaldeans) whose leaders have urged the international community, principally the United States, to intervene.

Adelman believes that the U.S. developing a stronger presence in Iraq, Syria and other adjacent countries could help minority populations such as the Chaldeans and Assyrians gain political representation, and would benefit the U.S. by helping to stabilize a key portion of a volatile Middle Eastern area.

At the conclusion of the book, Adelman examines various proposals that have been put forward for assisting and protecting these endangered people in their Middle Eastern heartland.