‘I want to give a voice to those who have none.’
These were the words of singer Sarah Ego, whose professional name is Eliyo, in an exclusive interview with ZENIT. She performed this month at a charity concert held in the Vatican’s German Campo Teutonico (the Teutonic Cemetery), on the evening of Dec.4.
The ecumenical Christmas concert was arranged by Prince Gharios, president of the Royal Ghassanide Academy of Sciences, to support Christian refugees from the Middle East, especially in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.
The Syrian Orthodox singer, born in Augsburg, Germany, sang traditional German Christmas songs, as well as others in Jesus’ language of Aramaic. She also sang traditional English Christmas carols and Schubert’s Ave Maria in Latin.
The Prince is head of the House of Ghassan, which is committed to helping Christian refugees in the Middle East. As the last Christian dynasty in the Middle East, dating back to Christianity’s early centuries, many Christian families of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Palestine trace their roots to the Ghassanid dynasty.
ZENIT: Could you share a little about your background, your roots?
Sarah Ego: I was born in Germany and grew up here. My parents are Assyrians and so I grew up not only with the German but also with the Assyrian culture.
The Assyrians, currently living in the countries of the Near and Middle East – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Turks, as well as emigration to Western Europe, America and Australia, Akkadians, Babylonians, and Arameans, who had been settled in Mesopotamia and Syria for thousands of years.
The cultural heritage of the past, the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian history, Syrian Christianity and the still lively mother tongue became the basis of the Assyrians of the present.
ZENIT: Why were you in the Vatican this December? What is the purpose of the event? Who is it helping?
Sarah Ego: As I advocate the support of persecuted Christians, I accepted the request to perform at the Charity concert, which took place in the Vatican on 2 December. The concert was organized by the Prince Gharios Foundation, which also works for this purpose.
ZENIT: What was the emotion for you to be singing in the Vatican?
Sarah Ego: It was an honor for me to be able to sing in the Vatican and at the same time in such a holy place. For me, it was connected with very special moments, as I could think through the respectful, quiet and family atmosphere in this period before Christmas. I will remember for the rest of my life this concert in the Vatican.
ZENIT: What, for you, is the signification of singing in Aramaic?
Sarah Ego: Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is my mother-tongue and therefore the language of my home. I feel especially close to my homeland when I sing with this ancient language, because this music embodies the culture of my ancestors.
ZENIT: You’ve said before you wish to be an ambassador for Christians in the Middle East. Why is this so?
Sarah Ego: I want to give a voice to those who have none and are there for them. It is important for me to let them know that we have not forgotten them.
ZENIT: What do you hope to achieve through your voice?
Sarah Ego: I wish to reach and touch many people through my voice. But above all I want to be a good example and inspire people to do good.
It is very inspiring to see how Prince Gharios of Ghassan, whose foundation aims to help Middle East Christians and refugees, sponsored this concert. I like the message that everyone can do something positive every day and help. The current projects of the Prince Gharios Foundation can be found on their Facebook page.
ZENIT: How can people help promote this cause in their everyday lives?
Sarah Ego: By showing that we are there for our fellow human beings, talking about the situation and concretely acting.
ZENIT: Anything else?
Sarah Ego: I wish everyone a happy and blessed Christmas celebration and hope that everyone is able to spend their holidays with their loved ones.
On the NET:
Website of Sarah Ego: http://sarahego.de/