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Chaldean Protest Raising Awareness
By Amer Hedow :: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 :: 57963 Views :: Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends

Mosul, IRAQ— Shocking the conscience of anyone who would dare pay a few minutes of attention, Christians are being mowed down in Mosul.  Community activists in Australia, England, US, Denmark, and Germany are begging world governments to do more than talk.  Activists are protesting in front of city halls, holding meetings, getting petitions signed, attempting any and all efforts to raise the awareness and conscience of world leaders, turning a blind eye to the genocide of Iraqi Christians. 

Nearly 10,000 Christians — roughly half the city's Christian population — have fled this month because of organized and targeted threats and attacks, according to Iraqi officials.  Christians in Iraq are fast losing faith and trust with the Iraq government.  Few Iraqi Christians are returning to the restive city of Mosul despite government pledges of financial support and protection, officials said Wednesday.

Attempts to bribe families back into the city have fallen on deaf ears. The prime minister offered every Christian family that returns to Mosul 1 million Iraqi dinars — about $865, said Jawdat Ismaeel, a local migration official.  But less than a handful of Christians have returned, he said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed today  to punish armed groups which have attacked and killed Christians in Mosul.  Iraq "will punish those who caused the displacement of Christians from their homes, and hold accountable those who stood behind the armed groups which carried out these crimes," Maliki was quoted as saying in a statement.

Maliki, who was meeting with Iraqi Christian leaders, called the violence part of a greater "political scheme" that was doomed to fail.  He stressed that police would continue to provide security while the government would take whatever steps necessary to help Iraq's minority Christian community.  "Their (the Christians) departure from Iraq would be an insult to the Iraqi people," he said.

Christians weary over promises continue to see their existence erode.  Efforts to keep Christians represented in the Iraqi constitution was stripped out at the eleventh hour and calls for a Christian province were rejected.   The recent series of killings, widely blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq, has occurred as the religious minority stepped up lobbying efforts to ensure its representation in upcoming provincial elections in the predominantly Muslim country.

Islamic extremists have frequently targeted Christians and other religious minorities since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, forcing tens of thousands to flee Iraq. However, attacks had declined as areas became more secure after a U.S. troop buildup, a U.S.-funded Sunni revolt against al-Qaida and a Shiite militia cease-fire.

The Iraqi government is attempting to convince the world that the exodus of Iraq Christians out of Mosul has been stemmed.  "The flight of Christians from Mosul has ceased," Ghanem al-Ghanam, director of Iraq's human rights ministry, said in a statement.

He said a fact-finding mission found that 2,275 families -- based on an average of four persons per family -- had abandoned their homes and jobs, taking shelter in Christian villages on the northern and eastern fringes of Nineveh province.
Lt. Gen. Riyadh Jalal Tawfiq, the Iraqi military commander for Ninevah province, said the government was fulfilling its responsibility to "give protection to every family that returns home."  He said the security situation in Mosul was improving. Security checkpoints have been set up and foot patrols are checking the houses of displaced families to see who has returned, he said.  "We urge other families to come back," Tawfiq said. "We will ensure their protection."

But few Iraqi Christians are buying the governments press announcements and continue looking for ways to flee. 

Across oceans and continents, many Christians are organizing pressure on world governments to take action.  About 100 people gathered in downtown Phoenix yesterday to advocate for the rights of Iraqi Christians and raise awareness about the religious and ethnic attacks occurring in the region. 

Protesters stood in front of Phoenix City Hall, holding signs that read, "Silent genocide: Who will help the Christians of Iraq?" while speakers urged Americans to petition to their state officials to stand up for the rights of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq.

One of the issues at the forefront of the protest concerned "Article 50," which was part of the Iraq Election Law in preliminary drafts but then eliminated. The article was designed to protect electoral rights in the parliament by reserving seats in a quota system for minorities. Protestors are appealing to the international community to demand the article's reinstatement.

Demonstrators are also asking that the United States and United Nations form a committee to investigate and monitor the attacks and intimidation tactics committed against Iraqi Christians.

The same efforts are occurring in Turlock and San Diego, California as well as Southfield, Michigan whereby hundreds of community leaders are gathering.  The group from Michigan is sending a delegation to Washington D.C. to meet.  Sydney, Australia and London, UK have also reported groups protesting too raise awareness.   

All community leaders agree little action will be taken unless each individual takes action by calling their local, state, and national representatives and demand efforts to protect Iraqi Christians. 

Since the US-led invasion of 2003 more than 200 Christians have been killed across Iraq and a large number of churches attacked, with the violence reaching shocking proportions in recent weeks, particularly in the north.

Around 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq at the time of the invasion, but the number has since shrunk by around a third as members of the minority community have fled the country, according to Christian leaders.

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.