November 14, 2019
One of the joys of being a part of the Emmanuel community is encountering people of differing perspectives and life experiences. The diversity in these areas among students, staff, faculty, and alumni is beneficial to everyone in the community and shapes our theology, biblical interpretation, and ministry. At present, one of the many people enriching the school with an insightful perspective and an abundance of life experience is student Rami Qaryaqos.
Qaryaqos was raised in Iraq, his family being part of the country’s Chaldean community. Chaldeans, along with Assyrians, are conspicuous among the peoples of Iraq in that they are, and long have been, predominantly Christian. Chaldean tradition maintains that they converted through the ministry of a disciple of the apostle Thomas in the early years of the Christian church. Throughout the centuries they have faced great hardship at the hands of others, but they continue to persevere and proclaim their faith.
In his childhood Qaryaqos was not always devout, but a number of profound encounters with Christ changed his heart and motivated him to commit his life to God. In subsequent years he served in the church and also helped protect church buildings from attack. On several occasions he experienced what he believes was divine intervention sparing him from fatal disasters, including a gunshot wound to the chest.
Being a Christian has not always been easy for Qaryaqos. In 2011 he looked on as the homes and businesses of believers were set ablaze, and a few years later, when living outside of Iraq, he learned of the Islamic State’s military advances and the horrible persecution faced by his fellow Christians.
Qaryaqos later came to Canada and became a student of Emmanuel, where he began inspiring the school community with his life story and with his perspective on life. In spite of the hardship he has faced, he has remained firm in his belief in God’s saving action in the world.
Additionally, he has come to see how his Iraqi Chaldean background gives him insight into theology and Scripture that many Westerners do not have. For example, because he speaks a kind of Aramaic, he is highly aware of the fact that even though Greek is the original language of the New Testament, many of the conversations recounted in the Gospels and elsewhere were likely had in Aramaic. His mother tongue is somewhat different from the kind of Aramaic spoken by Jews in Jesus’s day, but even so, Qaryaqos believes that he is able to comprehend how certain features of the language would have shaped the way particular statements were conveyed and understood.
Qaryaqos provides a helpful reminder to Christians that everyone’s personal backgrounds and life experiences shape their view of the world and their reading of Scripture. One way to minimize blind spots and achieve a more robust understanding of God’s Word and his work in the world is to foster cross-cultural relationships and formulate theology with people of differing perspectives. At Emmanuel, we are grateful to have a community where this kind of activity takes place on a regular basis.