Assyrian Hospitals

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Contents

Introduction

Assyrian Hospital in Almalıq

The churches of the Communion of the Church of the East have long had a strong tradition of medical proficiency. From the earliest days of the Assyrian Church's expansion, its missionary monks would establish libraries and hospitals alongside their monasteries in order to improve literacy and education and to minister to the sick. This tradition continues to the present day.

In former times, the monasteries would often run the hospitals entirely themselves. Though this is sometimes still the case, it is not the norm in many parts of the Church of the East's operational area. Other administrative systems predominate in several parts of the world, and an institution called an "Assyrian Hospital" may be an entirely professional, secular facility staffed and run by professionals, but keeping the name for the sake of continuity and association with the Assyrian Church's medical reputation, or it may remain a facility entirely run by monks and nuns of the Church, or it may be any of a number of combinations thereof.

History

As mentioned above, the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East has a long and highly-regarded history of medical work. The monastic hospitals of the early Eastern Church have already been mentioned. These hospitals were considered a normal, almost essential part of establishing the Church in a new area, and were a large part of the phenomenal early growth of the Church of the East.

Later, as other religions waxed in importance and the Assyrian Church began to lose ground, the Church's medical tradition lent it continued regard by many rulers, and in some parts of the East, mediaeval Zoroastrian, Muslim, pagan and Manesian rulers would have Assyrian Christians – better yet, ethnic Assyrians – as their personal physicians in an otherwise non-Christian court.

This practice, similar to the role of mediaeval Jews and Moors in parts of Europe, lent the Church a certain amount of wary prestige, but even this was later to be challenged by Islamic and other medical practitioners, after they had absorbed the knowledge of the Assyrian Christians.

The Assyrian Church has expanded and grown, however, as well as weathering storms and shrinking, and more recent centuries have seen a renewed expansion of the Communion of the Church of the East and a return to its roots of Biblical scholarship, educational excellence and medical proficiency. Many of the old hospitals were revitalized or reopened in the XVIII-XIX Centuries, and several of these are still in operation to this day, though usually in vastly changed, redeveloped forms.

Modern Assyrian Hospitals

Modern Assyrian Hospitals are now somewhat more secular and professional than their historical counterparts, but most still retain strong links to the Church of the East. The exact nature of this linkage is highly variable depending on where in the world the hospital is located.

Many modern Assyrian hospitals, especially those in Persia and Turkic Central Asia, are cutting-edge medical institutions and include some of the region's best medical research hospitals. Others are more low-key, clinic-like or hospice-like affairs with a focus on care at least as much as on treatment. Again, this is regionally variable in the large operational area of the Communion of the Church of the East.

Assyrian Hospitals in the Middle East

Assyrian Hospitals in Persia

Assyrian hospitals in Persia tend to be the most secular. They are typically run as purely professional medical centres, retaining the name "Assyrian Hospital" only for the sake of continuity (many of them have been established for a long time and were formerly run by the Assyrian Church) and the association with a rich and respected medical tradition. They may or may not receive charitable donations from Assyrian churches and monasteries.

Assyrian Hospitals in Central Asia

In Central Asia, particularly Turkestan and Uyguristan, though also extending north and east into Mongolia, "Assyrian" hospitals are typically administered as an Assyrian charitable organization that may be partially subsidised by national heathcare revenues. They are normally staffed largely by professional physicians, with a sizeable minority of Brother and Sister Doctors.

Assyrian Hospitals in India

In India, Assyrian hospitals are known as "Chaldean" hospitals, whether in the area under the aegis of the Chaldean Syrian Church or in Burma, Arakan and Tenasserim. They tend to be administered in a more traditional way, with monks both staffing and administering them. Many of them also employ numbers of secularly-trained physicians as well, particularly in specialist roles. Some of the larger monastic hospitals have Islamic, Sikh, Buddhist and Hindu doctors working alongside their Christian counterparts.

Assyrian Hospitals in Southeast Asia

Assyrian Hospitals in China

Assyrian Hospitals are associated with the Luminous Religion from Daqin in China. They form an important minority of the total number of hospitals in that part of the world, and one whose general level of medical expertise is high. Because of their religious associations, and also because of the prevalence of Chinese traditional medical practitioners, the "Assyrian" hospitals sometimes struggle with local perceptions of irrelevance or foreignness. However, among more educated Chinese, their reputation is high. They are administered as secular institutions, but are often attached to a small monastery and/or convent of monastics of the Religion of Light, whose Brother and Sister Doctors form a large minority of the hospital's medical staff.

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