COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Iraqi Christian Relief Council (ICRC) Founder Juliana Taimoorazy (left) and Anahit Khosoreva, PhD (right) present Riverside Church founder John Booko (center) with a bouquet of flowers and the ICRC’s David William Lazar Assyrian Freedom Award at his home April 9, in recognition of Booko’s decades of advocacy for the Assyrian people and the Assyrian nation

Local pastor receives recognition for Assyrian advocacy

THREE RIVERS — In the Christian Bible, in Isaiah 19:23-25, it talks about three nations that will exist in the end times: Israel, Egypt, and Assyria, the current-day area of northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran and northeastern Syria.

While for some, Assyria may be a lesser-known nation in Christian prophecy, for others advocating for the Assyrian people, in which the United States is home to one of the largest populations of Assyrians outside of the Middle East, have been their main mission for years.

One local pastor with Assyrian roots was honored this month with a special recognition for his years of advocacy for the Assyrian people through his preaching, teaching and diplomacy.

John Booko, the founding pastor of Riverside Church, was honored on April 9 by the nonprofit Iraqi Christian Relief Council (ICRC) with their David William Lazar Assyrian Freedom Award, which goes to those who have made significant contributions in advocating for the Assyrian people over the years. The small ceremony took place at Booko’s house in Three Rivers, with members of his family present to celebrate. The 99-year-old Booko, whose mother and father were Assyrians from Northern Iraq, has preached for a number of years in support of the Assyrian people, mainly for their role in Christian prophecy.

“The Assyrian people are very grateful to you for everything you’ve done historically for the Assyrians,” ICRC founder Juliana Taimoorazy said to Booko during the presentation. “I don’t know if I can ever find the appropriate words to thank you for what you have done for the Assyrian nation in the pastoral role you’ve had and also as someone who has introduced the Assyrian heritage and nation to the Americans.”

Booko has written two books about the Assyrians in prophecy over the years, 1982’s “Assyria: The Forgotten Nation in Prophecy” and 2001’s “The Assyrian Revolution.” In them, he talks about the numerous times Assyria, the ancient country, was mentioned in the Bible, as well as their role in Christians’ belief in the second coming of Jesus Christ. He has also gotten the opportunity to visit Israel and Egypt to pray for their people, and has also preached about Assyria and the Assyrian people in 14 different countries.

Assyrians have been around since 2500 BC, with Assyria being known as one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Assyria and its ties to Christianity – Assyrians are predominantly Christian – have also been discussed in the Christian Bible numerous times, something that has been a part of Booko’s preaching about the subject, estimating Assyria and the Assyrians are mentioned 150 times in the Bible. Taimoorazy estimates there are 2.5 million Assyrians still left in the world.

Taimoorazy said in an interview following the ceremony Booko has done many things to bring awareness to the Assyrian people and Assyria as a whole, which she called the “forgotten nation on the verge of extinction.”

“Whenever he spoke throughout the country through his sermons, he always spoke about his Assyrian heritage. He really educated the Americans for decades about who we are,” Taimoorazy said. “Every person who speaks about our cause, whether they're American, Assyrian or any other ethnicity, we're indebted to them because we need to let the world know we still exist.”

Booko said he was surprised to receive the award for his work over the years.

“I’m just amazed and so honored and so happy about it. It’s so unexpected,” Booko said.

Booko said he is proud of his heritage, especially the Aramaic language, which was the language Jesus spoke when he was alive. He said he was also thankful that his advocacy over the years had a big impact on many people.

“I just want to give God the glory, thanking him that He has used me as He has,” Booko said.

Overall, Booko said the Assyrians have a “wonderful” future based on the scripture.

“It says in the Bible that in that day in the future, three nations will be blessed: Israel, Egypt and Assyria. God calls Assyria ‘the work of my hands.’ Assyria has got a great future from that verse, and that is amazing and wonderful,” Booko said.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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