Remarks by Walid Maalouf
Director, Public Diplomacy for Middle Eastern & MEPI Affairs
The ChaldoAssyrian Dinner
San Diego, California
Sunday, July 24, 2005
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It is an honor to be with you this evening. Your community has been migrating to this continent since the 16 th century; the first recorded member of the ChaldoAssyrian community to arrive to the new world was from Mosul . He served as a priest for the Spanish conquistadors in Central America .
You are the keepers of the Aramaic language which is still spoken and written in the Middle East . You are resilient people, who have kept their language, heritage and religion alive throughout the centuries. And your resiliency and love of your roots is keeping your communities in Iraq , Lebanon , Syria and Iran resisting all temptation to leave the Middle East , and for that we commend you
I want to thank the Assyrian Democratic Movement and the ChaldoAssyrian Syriac Association of San Diego for this opportunity to spend some time with you and talk about the rebuilding of Iraq and the commitment of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Iraq and the region. I have been traveling around our Middle Eastern American communities and I am impressed by the level of interest shown toward President George W. Bush's initiatives and policies. I have been to Boston , Orlando , Washington , DC, Los Angeles , Detroit , Cleveland , New York and now here with you talking about the President's work in the region. One of President Bush's major concerns is how can we make the Middle Eastern Americans around our nation, as well as in the region, fully aware of the programs that are building democracy and freedom in this vital region of the Middle East. My Public Diplomacy office has played a crucial role in relaying the message to the community by enhancing communications between the Agency and the broader Middle Eastern community in America and catalyzing the broadest possible public support for democratic reform in the region.
However, Iraq is the cornerstone of change for the whole region. It is important to understand that coexistence is vital for Iraq 's success. As democracy takes hold in Iraq , it will mean more protection for all minorities in the country. And as democracy spreads through the Middle East minorities through the region should flourish, just the way we all are here in our great United States of America .
What have we done with your community thus far?
On Elections: There were several Christian political entities which were certified for the January 30, 2005 elections (Provincial Government or National Assembly). For example:
- Assyrian Patriotic Party
- Assyrian Independent Gathering Movement
- Iraqi Christian Democratic Party
- Assyrian National Gathering
- Beit Nahren Democratic Party
- Beith Nehrain National Union
- Assyrian Democratic Movement
Additionally, the Assyrian Political Council was certified as a coalition.
On the Assyrian Non-Governmental organizations: USAID has provided support to non-governmental organizations with an Assyrian component or to a community or district with an Assyrian component through six Iraq Transition Initiative grants for a total of $173,611.
On the Ninawa Governorate: USAID worked on infrastructure, from water treatment to sanitation projects, on democracy and governance, we completed 99 projects worth $3.1 million and $1.5 million in grant to the Ninawa Governoate. On transition initiatives we disbursed 221 transitions totaling grant of $13.4 million. And many other humanitarian, agricultural, economic and educational projects and programs.
The bottom line my friends is freedom to all. This is what the President said upon receiving an Iraqi delegation at the Rose Garden this past March "Today, people in a long-troubled part of the world are standing up for their freedom. In the last few months, we've witnessed successful elections in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Palestinian Territories; peaceful demonstrations on the streets of Beirut, and steps toward democratic reform in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The trend is clear: Freedom is on the march. Freedom is the birthright and deep desire of every human soul, and spreading freedom's blessings is the calling of our time. And when freedom and democracy take root in the Middle East, America and the world will be safer and more peaceful".
I believe democracy will lead to peace, to great economic returns, to freedom of the self and the opportunity for personal achievement, to equality, security and self-determination for all the nations in the region.
Thank you and May God keep the United States of America the beacon of freedom .