Our Guest Speaker today was Dr. Kristian Girling Ph.D. John Gray did the introduction and told us that Kris is a frequenter of the Riverine Club and a member of his friendship group. He has a doctorate in Philosophy in Middle Easter Studies from the University of London. He has taught in both the UK and the USA. He now works in Human Resources and his wife is from Wagga.
Kristian has authored a book of the history of the Catholic Church in the Middle East which is available on Amazon. It is titled "The Chaldean Catholic Church: Modern History, Ecclesiology and Church-State Relations"
Kristian began by posing the question: Why think about the Middle East in Wagga? Because there are so many connections, from Agriculture to Immigration, from History to Trade.
In the West we have many false assumptions about the Middle East. Geographically it is a vast area from Morocco to Afghanistan, including many countries with a hugely varied environment. It is the Heartland of many ancient civilisations as well as modern ones, Sumerian, Babylonian, Egyptian etc. It has come under the influence of many European Powers and has many natural resources some of which have brought great wealth through the production of oil and gas.
Over 420 million people live in this region of the world. Egypt, Iran and Turkey are the most populous with many religious identities and languages. The biggest Jewish population outside Israel is in Iran. Religion is very important. Intense beliefs influence daily life. The three main languages are Arabic, Persian and Turkish.
There are some major themes which will influence life in this region: The transition from Carbon fuels which are a finite resource, to other income sources. Israel for example is heavily invested in Hi Tech. Security Issues, food, water and physical protection are high on the agenda. There are many monarchies in the the Middle East which are changing although at a glacial pace.
Australia has a longstanding interaction with the region, from the afghan camel traders to the Anzacs in various theatres of war, Beersheeba, Gallipoli, Tobruk etc. Migration from that area to Australia between 2001 and 2019 increased by 130% and of course here in Wagga we have many Yazidi from Iraq, Hazara from Afghanistan and Dinka from South Sudan, as well as others from Iran etc. The Saudis have many investments in Australia increasing to 5.1 billion dollars. We export a lot of grain including Barley to Saudi Arabia.
Kristian responded to a number of questions on topics from the Israel/Palestine conflict, to the position of women in Iran, to what does a PH.D. do.
Members were very interested in Kristian's talk and warmly applauded as President Phil presented him with a bottle of olive oil in appreciation.