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Chaldeans Worry Over UN Altercation of Iraq Refugee Guidelines
By Huda Metti :: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 :: 58929 Views :: Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends

California, USA – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) this week revised its guidelines about Iraqi refugees, scaling down the categories of Iraqis that it says should be granted asylum in all cases.  Central Iraq remains unstable, and refugees from those provinces should be granted asylum, the UNHCR said. Those provinces include Baghdad, Diyala and Ninevah.

Andrew Harper, who leads the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees operation in Iraq, says Chaldeans and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq should receive asylum from Western countries. 

Harper emphasized that Iraq is in a tenuous position as the United States reduces its presence in the country. He said Iraqis don't want a permanent U.S. presence, but acknowledge that the "surge" of American forces in 2008 actually yielded considerable security gains.  Those gains are at risk if the Obama administration removes security forces from the country.  Chaldean leaders feel the vacuum would create a civil war with Iraqi Christians targeted by all sides.

Reports show that the 310,000 Iraqi refugees have registered for resettlement under the United Nations.  Chaldean Christians make up between 2 and 3 percent of Iraq's population, but represent 10 to 15 percent of the Iraqi refugees who have registered for resettlement.  "Minorities are overrepresented in our registration because they do not see the potential to return to Iraq," Harper said.

Harper said some refugees are beginning to return to Iraq. About 1.5 million Iraqi refugees displaced by the war are believed to be living in Syria and Jordan. Another 1.6 million likely are displaced from their homes inside Iraq.

Security has improved enough in Iraq's southern provinces and the western province of Al Anbar for countries to consider refugee applications from those areas on an individual basis rather than with a blanket recommendation from the United Nations to accept the asylum seekers. Previously, only Iraq's northern provinces were considered safe enough for some refugees to have the requests for asylum denied.

That said, the UNHCR contends minorities, single women, political activists and Iraqis who have worked for Western countries should be granted asylum because they face discrimination or persecution in Iraq.

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.