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Chaldean Families in Iraq Targeted for Their Beliefs
By Guest Reporter :: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 :: 69586 Views :: Law & Order, Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends

Georgina, CAN - A Georgina man is in a desperate race against time to rescue his sister and her family from Baghdad, Iraq.

Described as the most dangerous city on Earth, Baghdad is torn apart by sectarian violence amid a wider civil war.

It is a city where how you worship God can literally get you killed.

Sam Taan, who operates the Daisy Mart in Sutton, said the urgency to get his sister, Ban, her husband Raad (their last names are withheld over safety concerns) and their two young sons, grew last month when Raad's brother Fatah was murdered by one of the many Islamic militias that prowl the city.

“He was working in a house doing some plumbing. You do whatever job you can get,” Mr. Taan said. “He finished and had just left to go home when five guys came up to him.”

The five armed men were members of the notorious militia controlled by fanatical Shi’a cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.

“Who are you?” they asked him.

He told them.

“What sect are you?”

This is a question often asked to determine if the person accosted is a Shi’a or Sunni, the two Islamic sides locked in bloody conflict and ethnic cleansing.

Fatah, 40, said he wasn’t with any of the two. “I’m a Christian,” he said.

He was told he had to convert. He refused.

“That was it,” Mr. Taan said. “They shot him immediately in the head. That’s the way it is over there now. Today, you are alive. Tomorrow, you could be dead.”

Things are growing steadily worse for his sister’s family, he said.

Raad can’t find work, so they have to rely on what she makes in her job as an accountant for the government.

Their two children only go to school occasionally because of the danger.

Children have not been spared in the hate-filled ethnic conflict, victims of murder squads or fanatical suicide bombers.

They have been harassed and threatened for being Christian, in their case with the Chaldean Catholic church.

The Chaldeans have been in the region since about 600 BC, long before the emergence of modern Iraq.

There is growing evidence Christians and other minority religions are targeted for ethnic cleansing by al-Queda in Iraq.

Life under Saddam Hussein was harsh, he said, but it wasn’t the bloody anarchy it is today, as the ill-fated United States invasion and occupation stretches into its fourth year.

He will co-sponsor his family to come to Canada, but he needs a community sponsor — an organization, association or corporation, for example a service club, Mr. Taan said.

Under Canada’s refugee sponsorship program, the community sponsor must have the financial ability to support the family if necessary, usually for a year.

Mr. Taan has contacted MP Peter Van Loan’s office.

“They’ve been very helpful in providing the information,” he said. “Now hopefully, someone will step forward.”

Mr. Taan came to Canada about 10 years ago, sponsoring his wife, parents and younger brother to come here three years later.

All are now proud Canadians, he said.

Mr. Taan and his wife, Rita, and their children, Lourdes, 3 and Lawrence, 1, live in Keswick.

“We’re very anxious to get them out,” he said. “But there are so many obstacles. I hope someone can help us. My sister is my parents’ only daughter. They are the last of our immediate family left in Iraq.”

Since the outbreak of war, Christians have fled in record numbers.

A little more than half of the original 750,000 are left, most of them in the safer Kurdish region in the north.

In places such as Baghdad, though, they have been threatened, assaulted and murdered and many of their churches destroyed.

Mr. Taan hopes his sister’s family can come to Canada and settle in Georgina, where he and his own family have found a safe haven and a welcoming community.

Anyone who can help, can call Mr. Taan at 905-722-6341 or e-mail sarmaddamman@yahoo.com

Report provided by John Slykhuis

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.