The history of the Syriac Orthodox Church is characterized by adversity. Byzantinian oppression in the sixth and seventh centuries was followed by the atrocities of the Crusaders in the 11th and 12th centuries, then decimation at the hands of the Mongolians lead by Tamerlane (1336-1405) in about 1400, and severe restrictions under the Ottoman Sultanate. The growth of nationalism in the waning years of the Ottoman Sultanate lead to the massacre of about 25,000 in what is today South East Turkey in 1895-96. An even greater calamity occurred in 1915, etched in the memory of the Syriac Orthodox community as the Sayfo (Year of the Sword), wiping out 90314 people (including 154 priests) in 13350 families in 346 villages representing about a third of the Syriac Orthodox population in the area (according to the records compiled by Patriarch Aphrem I). Further misery came with the Kurdish rebellion in 1925-26, when the Kurds used the monasteries of Mor Malke and Dayro da-Slibo and the churches in Basibrin and near Hbob as bases. The immense suffering and destruction from 1895 onwards resulted in the alteration of the demographics of the community and mass emigration to other areas in the Middle East, notably Syria, to the North and South Americas, to different parts of Europe, and to Australia.
Amidst all the adversity, the Church produced several illustrious saints whose lives and works had such immense influence not only on the Syriac tradition but much of Christendom. The rich liturgical heritage of the Syriac Orthodox Church is but one of their legacies. Scholars of the Church such as Mor Ya`qub of Edessa, George, the Bishop of the Arabians, and Moses Bar Kepha played an important role in transmitting Greek knowledge to the Arab world. Numerous Syriac Orthodox authors have also recorded historiographical accounts. Among them are such works as the Ecclesiastical History of John of Ephesus, the Chronicle of Jacob of Edessa, the Chronicle of Zuqnin (erroneously attributed to Patriarch Dionysius of Tel-Mahre), the Chronicle of Patriarch Mikhayel Rabo, the Chronography and Ecclesiastical History of Maphryono Gregorius Bar `Ebroyo.
In coming days we will learn more about our Liturgy and Holy Fathers.