Whether they identify themselves as Chaldeans, Assyrians or Arameans, one thing they all have in common, namely their liturgical and linguistic heritage. They are Christians from the Middle East (South-East Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran) who have been the victims of persecution and oppression for the sake of their faith since the beginning of Christianity. After so many centuries this has ensured that they have fled their homeland on a large scale since the 20th century and have found a new home all over the world
In their homeland they were Christians belonging to the so-called Syrian (Syriac) Churches, but once in the diaspora they have more than ever experienced the necessity to bring their ethnic identity alongside their religious and ecclesiastical identity. This was because people wanted to profile themselves as a nation. There was a need to represent themselves worldwide, so that despite the diaspora one could still remain connected.
Chaldeans do not have a separation from Church and state because they had a Church as a minority, but no state. Their ecclesiastical leaders who defended their interests and guarded their rights.
Their search for their ethnic roots, however, led to much discussion in the 20th century, where there has been much speculation about who their real forefathers were. Ethnic links have been sought with the ancient Mesopotamian peoples such as the Chaldeans, Aramaeans and Assyrians.
This is not because they differed only religiously from the great powers under which they lived, but because they could not associate themselves with the language. They speak a language that was proper to them and had no connection with the languages of the great powers (Persians, Arabs, Ottomans, Turks), but rather with those of the ancient Mesopotamian peoples.
They are indeed the continuations of these Mesopotamian peoples, but it is impossible to prove scientifically today whether they are pure descendants of only one of these peoples. This has created a great deal of debate and disagreement on the world stage and has in fact become a political-ethnic-religious twist over which no consensus has been reached.
From a purely theoretical point of view we can say that Chaldeans belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church that has gone into union with the Church of Rome, while retaining its own rite. Assyrians belong largely to the Assyrian Church of the East and partly also to the Old Church of the East and some Protestant church communities. Arameans belong to the Syrian Orthodox and Syrian-Catholic Church.
In addition to these Churches, there are some other branches that belong to the Syrian Churches, such as the Maronite Church, the Melkite Church etc.
However, at the beginning of the 20th century there were nationalists who wanted to put one name on all these groups, namely the Assyrian name. A name that came back into use after archaeological excavations in northern Iraq, where spectacular cases of the ancient Assyrian Empire were discovered (mid 19th century).
This name was propagated on a large scale and has been accepted by many of these Christians and was mainly used by the Chaldean Nestorians (Christians of the Church of the East who had not become Catholics). Later the non-Catholic branch of the Church of the East took over the name Assyrian. The Chaldean name, officially restored to use since the 15th century, lost its national character and was only used for the Catholic Christians of the Chaldean Church.
The theory is often used that ‘Chaldean’ is a religious movement and one is Assyrian on ethnic level. A theory that is not founded and is also part of the Assyrian propaganda. ‘Chaldean’ is not a religion, but as mentioned above also the identity of an ancient people from Mesopotamia. This term was used as a national label for the Christian minority group in Mesopotamia that formed the Church of the East. Historical reasons were the basis for the official re-use of this ethnic identity.
The Aramaic name has been used mainly by the Christians of the Syrian Orthodox Church in response to Assyrian nationalism, but also has great historical reasons.
They are indeed ethnic names / identities of the ancient Mesopotamian peoples. Today all three denominations exist side by side and unfortunately none of the three can serve to appoint all these groups. Simply because they are not accepted by each other.
This story is no different in Belgium. The people we know today as Assyrians are largely Chaldeans and Arameans / Syrian Orthodox.
In practice, however, they identify themselves as Assyrians for the sake of familiarity with the term or because of the belief that they are ethnic Assyrians of the ancient Assyrian Empire (Assyrian nationalism 20th century).
The Assyrian name is propagated in the Dutch-speaking areas (Antwerp-Mechelen) in such a way that it is widely known in these cities. However, the contradiction of this name is great, because Chaldeans identify themselves in the mother tongue as Chaldean (Keldaya) and not as Assyrian (Atoraya)
The remarkable thing is that the Chaldeans in the French speaking areas identify themselves as Chaldeans, both in their mother tongue (Keldayé) and in French (Chaldéens).