The Honorable Theodoros d’beth Mar Shimun
The Honorable Theodore d’beth Mar Shimun was born on October, 15, 1906 in Qudchanis, Turkey. He was the eldest of twelve children born to Rab Khaila David d’ Mar Shimun and Lady Esther, sister of Mar Yosip Khnanishou, Metropolitan. He knew both uncles, Mar Benyamin Shimun XXI, and Mar Poulus Shimun XXII, Catholicos Patriarchs. However, he stands out most for his long time relationship with his younger brother, Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, whom he served as trusted confidant for over fifty years.
The Honorable Theodore lived in Qudchanis, Turkey until 1915 when the upheavals of the political conditions forced the Patriarchal family along with thousands of other Assyrians to take flight from their ancestral homelands. Arduous days ensued heaping misfortune to tragedy as they made their way to Salamis, Iran in hardship that marked the beginning of World War One. History has already documented the bitterness of this bleak period for Assyrians including the Assyrian genocide and the unfulfilled British promise of support to restore the Assyrian homelands. Eventually the family reached Iraq and settled in Baquba and later in Mosul, where Theodore’s education was tended to with great care. From an early age, both he and his brother received the necessary theological and liturgical training by the late Archdeacon of the Patriarchate, the Very Reverend Thoma of Ashita and by the Metropolitan of Rustaqa, His Grace Mar Yosip Khnanishoo. Furthering his education, Theodore attended the prestigious Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in England where he graduated and then returned to live in Mosul until 1933.
In 1933 Theodore, His Holiness, Mar Eshai Shimun Catholicos Patriarch XXIII, his father, Rab Khaila Dawid and his uncle the Honorable Zaia were arrested and exiled with the rest of the Patriarchal family by the British and deported to the island of Cyprus, separating this family from the Assyrians. The British offered no explanation other than to declare that the deportation was an effort to protect the family until a long term solution could be devised.
In Nicosia, Cyprus he worked for the government of Cyprus. At one point during the family’s exile in Cyprus, the British government summoned Theodore and his brother, the Honorable Captain Sargon to report to the British Army headquarters in Jerusalem, Palestine. The British attempted to recruit the brothers’ to travel to Khabur, Syria and enlist an Assyrian army. Needless to say, this insulting act done by the British was met with a firm and decisive refusal. The brothers rebuffed the demand and the British retaliated by delaying their return and detained them in Jerusalem for almost a full year.
Twenty one years later, the British government lifted its unwarranted sanction against the patriarchal family. In 1955, Theodore was the last to join the other members of the family and lived in a London suburb until 1960 when the Patriarch made arrangements for the family to finally be reunited in San Francisco, California, under a private bill passed by Congress and signed by President Eisenhower.
In 1991 he created an oral history that resulted in printing his spoken words into a manuscript in the modern Syriac language called Tasheeta D’Yubla det Pateryarchi d’Mar Shimun or The History of the Succession of the d’Mar Shimun Patriarchs. Sadly, several key omissions were made when the book was transcribed from tape to text in the Assyrian version. This was not the intent of the author so we have included these omissions in the the translation from tape to text in the English version. Today, this book is being translated directly from the archives containing his spoken word into the English language for both Assyrian and non Assyrian readers, with context applied for the readers edification.
The family moved one last time, to Turlock, California in 1974 where he lived until his passing, December 31st, 2001. He was 95 years old. His final resting place in Turlock Memorial Park, is beside his brother, Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, Catholicos Patriarch of the Church of the East and his sister, the Lady Rowena d’Mar Shimun Sr., nearby his parents, Rab Khaila Dawid, and Lady Esther, and aunt, Lady Surma.
The Honorable Theodore was a subject matter expert on the Church of the East and Assyrian geopolitical history, a known scholar whose depth of content knowledge is unmatched today. He was a critical part of the Assyrian historical landscape in the early and mid 20th century not only as an eye witness but in some cases impacting historical outcomes. For those that knew him, they clearly understood not only the unimpeachable ethics that guided his character but his uncanny ability to recall the most minutest level of detail with keen acuity and accuracy, a characteristic that lasted until his remaining days. His attention to detail and his uncompromising honesty truly set him apart.