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Chaldean Teacher Namir Gourguis Freed
By Amer Hedow :: Thursday, May 21, 2009 :: 59354 Views :: Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends

Kirkuk, IRAQ – The disputed lands of Kirkuk continue to foster hostilities as the three major factions of Iraq pound Christian minorities in order to seize property and lay claim to the oil rich lands.  Although Iraq is the native home to the Chaldean Catholic Church, one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, hundreds of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee since the US-led invasion of March 2003.  “Our people are easy targets.  Iraqi Christians are the Tibetans of the Middle East.  We are peaceful,” says John Anwya.  “These cowards attack Iraq’s native people.”

In northern Iraq a Christian missionary and teacher Namir Nadhim Gourguis, has been freed after just over a week in captivity, according to the Catholic missionary news agency Asia news.

Gourguis was well known in the community and loved.  Mediation by tribal chiefs and local imams led to Gourguis' release just over a week after he was abducted by a gunmen last Thursday at an elementary school near the northern oil city of Kirkuk.

No ransom was paid for the release of 32-year-old Gourguis, according to Asia News.  The archbishop of Kirkuk, Louis Sako, declared Friday a holiday for Christians to celebrate Gourguis' release.  "After eight days in captivity, Namir is free. We thank God - today joy reigns in Kirkuk's Christian community."

Last year saw a wave of sectarian attacks against the Christian community in Iraq. The northern city of Mosul's archbishop, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was found dead last March after having been kidnapped, tortured, and beaten for about two weeks.

At least 14 Christians were killed in the northern city of Mosul in Nineveh province in three months and thousands of Christian families fled the city, according to the United Nations.

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.