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Minority Rights Group International Ranks Iraq Second in Persecution
By Rita Abro :: Tuesday, April 17, 2007 :: 64442 Views :: Law & Order, Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends


Baghdad, IRAQ - Minority Rights Group International (MRG) releases their State of the World’s Minority’s 2007 report was released last week.  The report highlights  minority groups in Iraq, including Christians and women, as among the most vulnerable in the world.

Iraq is home to a shrinking indigenous population of Christian groups with Chaldeans composing only three percent of the 26 million people in the country.

The minority report cited the September-October UNAMI (United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq) report that noted a spike in violence against all Christians in Iraq, including churches and convents being attacked by rocket and gunfire and religious leaders being kidnapped and beheaded in October.

Another key concern for Iraq’s Christian minority is the growing refugee crisis which has totaled more than 1.8 million people since the 2003 U.S.-led offensive. Nearly half of those seeking asylum in neighboring countries and elsewhere are Christians.



“The report confirms what has been told to us by refugees and partner organizations working with these Iraqis in the Jordanian capital,” said Sharon Payt, advocacy director for World Vision Middle East/Eastern Europe Office (MEERO), in a released statement on Monday.

World Vision is carrying out both relief work through partners among Iraqi refugees in Amman, Jordan, and an advocacy strategy through World Vision offices around the Partnership and in coalition with agencies like the UNHCR.  Most of the refugees flee to neighboring Syria or Jordan.

Women are another discriminated minority in Iraq, facing a triple threat of discrimination from religion, ethnicity and gender. Many women in Iraq are non-Muslims, according to the report, and face death threats for failing to fully cover their heads and bodies to meet the strict Islamic standard.

The Women’s Rights Association of Baghdad reported in March 2006 that the number of women attacked for not fully covering their heads and face has tripled since 2003.

Women are also the victims of “honor killings” due to family conflict and vulnerable when they become widows. Iraq has few opportunities for a widow to earn money and they are not allowed to drive alone without a male relative present.
St. Joseph, MI USA

St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church
2442 E. Big Beaver Rd.
Troy, MI 48083
Tel: (248) 528-3676
Fax: (248) 524-1957

Congregation Organizer:
Rev. Michael J. Bazzi

Church Constructing Pastor:
Rev. Sarhad Y. Jammo

Current Pastor:
Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Ayad Hanna

 Current Pastor: Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Msgr. Zouhair Toma (Kejbou) was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1947.  He was ordained a priest in Baghdad, Iraq in 1968, and accepted his first assignment to serve the community of Baquba.  The Monsignor’s leadership skills and organizational talents along with his mastery of theology were immediately evident.  He later assisted Sts. Peter and Paul in Al-Salehia, and St. George in New Baghdad.

In August, 1978 Monsignor Toma was called to serve the growing community of persecuted Chaldeans finding refuge in Australia.   Being the fist Chaldean priest to arrive in Australia he quickly established a parish for the Chaldeans in Sydney to serve their social and spiritual needs.  The parish was named after St. Thomas the Apostle and built a rectory. 

In 1989, for his incredible work he was granted the title of Monsignor, Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar for Australia and New Zealand.  Continuing his passionate work to serve the Chaldean community the Monsignor moved the Parish Center to a more accessible location and built a large church campus featuring a modern community center, residence quarters, and administrative offices in 1995. 

In 2003, Monsignor Toma added a magnificent church to replace the previous one in order to serve the fast growing community and also opened two other centers.  The first was Our Lady Guardian of Plants in Melbourne, and the second was Mar Addai the Apostle in Auckland, New Zealand.  Mar Addai in New Zealand included two very large churches along with rectories and community centers.  Overseeing the Patriarchal Vicariate for 28 years, he managed to inspire six more priests to help minister to the fast growing Chaldean community. 

In August 2006, Monsignor chose to assist the St. Thomas the Apostle Diocese in the U.S. as more Catholic churches were being built in America and address the growing need.  On October 2006, Monsignor was incardinated and appointed Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Troy.