History of the Synod
Mandaeans began to settle in Australia around 1981. Ganzevra Salah Chohili arrived in 1996. Ganzevra Salah Chohili then proceeded to conduct religious ceremonies for the Mandaean Community, including baptisms at the Nepean River on Sundays and Festivals.
With the approval of the Penrith City Council, a set of steps into the river was erected at Tench Reserve (near the mooring of the Nepean Belle) to facilitate the conducting of these baptisms. After the settlement of Ganzevra Salah Chohili, the Mandaean Community also took steps to organize itself as a religious denomination.
The Sabian Mandaean Association purchased land on the Nepean River at Wallacia for the erection of a mandi (place of worship). At a meeting on 5th July 2005 it was agreed to form a Temporary Synod, its major tasks being to draft a Constitution for the Mandaean Community as a religious denomination and to produce plans for the construction of the mandi and necessary facilities on the land at Wallacia.
The aim was to make the Temporary Synod as widely representative as possible. The membership of the Temporary Synod changed over time. There was a standing invitation for anyone who wished to do so to join. This invitation was announced at various meetings of the community. The Temporary Synod proceeded to produce and discuss a draft constitution and invited the participation and input of other Mandaean organizations, all Mandaean clergy in Australia and any interested Mandaeans.
The process proceeded at a leisurely pace. Submissions from interested parties were invited a number of times and there was a General Meeting to discuss the draft constitution. This meeting was widely-attended and included all the Mandaean clergy in Australia and representatives of the other Mandaean organisations. Discussion of the draft constitution went on for 2½ years.
When the Temporary Synod had reached consensus on the draft constitution to be submitted to the Mandaean community at large for approval, the Australian Electoral Commission was asked to conduct the plebiscite in order to ensure an impartial, fair and transparent process. The Australian Electoral Commission approved the Rules which the Temporary Synod submitted for the conduct of the plebiscite. The Australian Electoral Commission advertised the holding of the plebiscite in the Liverpool Leader of Wednesday 21st November 2007, the Fairfield Champion of Wednesday 21st November 2007 and Al Iraqia of Tuesday 20th November 2007. Notification was also given in the Mandaean community newspaper Kushta. The holding of the plebiscite was widely advertised and it was open to every single adult Mandaean to enroll to vote if he or she wished to do so. Every adult member of the Mandaean community thus had the opportunity to register on the Mandaean Electoral Roll and to cast his or her vote.
An election was held to elect the first Mandaean Synod on 17th February 2008 in accordance with the Constitution which was approved on 16th December 2007. The elections for the second sitting of the Mandaean Synod were held on 18th September 2011.
Mandaeans are followers of John the Baptist. Their ancestors fled from the Jordan Valley about 2000 years ago and ultimately settled along the lower reaches of the Tigris, Euphrates and Karun Rivers in what is now Iraq and Iran. Baptism is the principal ceremony of the Mandaean religion. Mandaean Baptisms are administered by a ganzevra (bishop) with the assistance of tarmidi (priests) and ishkandi (deacons). Baptism may only take place in a free-flowing fresh-water river. All Mandaean ceremonies are conducted in the Mandaean Aramaic language in accordance with the Mandaean canonical books, with the most Holy one being the Ginza Raba.