Why should I, the Maronite from Lebanon feel as an Aramaic Syriac?
It is a good question in the searching of our identity. And in the beginning of the answer I think we need to clear out what we mean with identity, how do we define it?
Some people feel for a certain identity just by speaking its languages like many people in the Arabic writing and reading world. Others just by living in a certain region, like in the former Yugoslavia, you were Yugoslav because you lived in something called Yugoslavia. Other just by having a passport with a name on it, it can be any passport; I can feel 100 % Swedish because I have a Swedish passport, others can feel they are Phoenician because the land they live in used to be called Phoenicia in the beginning of our history and so on.
All of those theories can be right if the person who calls himself for it really mean it and really feel like that.
I would like to bond my identity not only with one sign of the mentioned above but with many signs. Me as a Lebanese Maronite,
1) I still have most of my village names and person names in Aramaic Syriac.
2) My folklore dances and songs are all originally from the Aramaic Syriac culture.
3) My spoken Lebanese language has its roots in the Aramaic and until today it is considered the language that has influenced the Lebanese most. Until today the Aramaic language is a sacred language for most Christians in the Middle East.
Being Maronite and Syriac Aramaic doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly belonging to a little minority called today Syriac Orthodox or Syriac Catholic. It is almost the opposite, those latter are the ones that are belonging to me. Belonging to me according to my history of defender of the Syriac Aramaic identity through the many hundreds of years when new Muslim caliphates kept coming and with everyone new we had to be ready for new fights.
As a Maronite guy I should know that my old grand fathers and mothers were those who fought the most to preserve this heritage and today we are fighting the battle they gave us before they died.
All Christians in the Middle East were called Syriac´s at one time and that is why we bond the term of being a Syriac with being a Christian. The Aramaic people were those who adopted Christianity and took it with them to all over the world, to Persia, China, India and parts of Europe and so on. That kept their name alive in history so that our people of today can relate to them historically with no gaps in history.
All the other names of people in the Middle East stopped to exist when slowly the Aramaic language spread and got to be the lingua franca in the area with the biggest religion at that time in the Middle East, the Christianity.
The Phoenicians of the Levant, the Assyrians of Mesopotamia and all other people or identity names fell into a long gap until they got refounded in recent years by people living in the same area where those great civilizations once were.
My advice to people seeking for their roots and identity is: don’t stop when you find one red line you can trace, keep looking so that you can bond as many red lines as possible so that you can feel closer to how your ancestors once lived and how they could survive to leave you this peace of heaven on earth.
Bar Lebnon, Uppsala University , 27 september 2005