Assyrian Star Magazine
Worcester, Massachusetts
December, 2004

Assyrian National Council of Illinois 19th anniversary
Guest of honor Walid Maalouf

In celebrating its 19 th Anniversary, the Assyrian National Council of Illinois (ANCI) held a dinner event on Saturday, November 18, at its recently purchased building named the ' ChaldoAssyrian Center '. The Guest of Honor was Mr. Walid Maalouf, Director of Public Diplomacy for the Middle Easters & MEPI Affairs, U.S. Agency for International Development. In attendance were his Grace Mar Yosip Sergis (Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East), his Grace Mar Emmanuel Elias (Ancient Church of the East); Mr. Aladin Khamis, President of the Assyrian American National Federation as well as representatives from various Assyrian civic organizations in the city of Chicago and a large number of guests.

Mr. Sheba Mando the President of ANCI welcomed the guests and delivered a speech that highlighted the accomplishments of ANCI, the role that it has been playing, and outlined its vision for the future. Mr. Mando also touched on the preparation for the upcoming Iraqi elections, and stressed the need for the Assyrian community to participate in this process.

Mr. Walid Maalouf delivered the Keynotes of the event and started with the following "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."

Mr. Maalouf then spoke to the audience about President Bush's three Ds - Defense, Diplomacy and Development, and shared the goals of the National Strategy put forward by the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development: to achieve peace and security, advance sustainable development and global interest, promote international understanding and strengthen diplomatic program capabilities.

Mr. Maalouf added: "The total budget of USAID has grown in the last three years from $8 billion to $14 billion. You can clearly see the commitment of our Administration toward a better way of life for all human beings in the developing world." He then continued explaining why the new forward strategy of Freedom in the Middle East is so important, and said: "President George W. Bush is now tearing down all the walls and barriers that have slowed the advance of freedom, the advance of civil society, the advance of democracy, the advance of liberty and self-government, the advance of equality for women, and last, but not least, the advance of lasting peace in the Middle East."

On the subject of Iraq , Mr. Maalouf said: " 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 continued to say: "My friends, Iraq is the turning point in the Middle East . Make no mistake about it - these are historic times; change is taking shape. There is no turning back."