CANBERRA / STOCKHOLM — In times of major public health crises such as the novel coronavirus COVID-19, the timely dissemination of information about prevention and available medical services can mean the difference between a few dozen cases and a few thousand. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian government has published important information in Neo-Aramaic to ensure the countries growing Syriac-Chaldean-Assyrian population gets informed.
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data for the year 2016 for the greater Sydney area (state of New South Wales) there were 9,340 persons speaking Chaldean Neo-Aramaic (2011: 5,247) and 20,316 speakers of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic (2011: 15,571). Many more reside in the Melbourne metropolitan area. The Australian government has published public information in Chaldean Neo-Aramaic and Assyrian Neo-Aramaic for years now.
In March, SyriacPress reported that Swedish radio broadcaster Sveriges Radio broadcasted public health information about the Coronavirus in different minority languages (e.g. Arabic, Kurdish, Persian, and Somali) but not in Syriac, despite having a sizable Syriac population. There are some 150,000 Syriacs in Sweden, making it one of the largest ethnic groups in Sweden. Sveriges Radio defended itself by saying that because many people who come from the Middle East also know Arabic alongside their mother language (i.e. Syriac), it decided to provide the information to them in Arabic.
Will Sweden follow the Australian example?
Note: SyriacPress uses Syriac to designate the language of the Syriacs (Chaldeans-Arameans-Assyrians) which is also referred to as Suryoyo, Suryaya, Sureth, Surayt. We fully respect the choice of the Australian government and the Chaldean and Assyrian components of the Syriac people to refer to the language as Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and Chaldean Neo-Aramaic.