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Chaldeans Find Refuge in East Tennessee
By Rita Abro :: Monday, September 27, 2010 :: 19284 Views :: Community & Culture, Chaldean Churches

A group of religious refugees are finding a home in East Tennessee. Chaldean Catholics, native to Iraq, are fleeing their home country to avoid persecution.

Many Chaldeans are tortured, even murdered over their religious beliefs. There are an estimated 150,000 Chaldeans in the United States, including over 100 in East Tennessee. On Saturday, Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim of the St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Chaldean Diocese, which covers the Eastern US, said mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville to help teach local Catholics about the Chaldean's plight.

"Usually they believe that all Iraqis are Muslims, but no, we are Christians even from the beginning, before Islam was there, Christians were there," Bishop Ibrahim said.

Joining him are members of the newly formed organization "Iraqi Christians in Need".

"We're trying to raise awareness for what's going on in Iraq for these Christians, this is our launch of the organization," said ICIN board member Susan Dakak. "The fact that I can say there are Christians in Iraq is just unbelievable. It's such a foreign thing to people here and unless people have a constant reminder that there are Christians in Iraq, then people are not going to rise to help them."

Leaders of the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville hope to help them achieve their goal.

"We're hopeful here to establish a mission for the Chaldean community, that's the Iraqi Christians, so that community, especially those recently arrived immigrants, might gather together in worship and prayer to pray for peace and greater understanding in the world so that all people might be able to practice their faith and their freedom in security," said. Fr. David Boettner, Rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Ibrahim hopes educating the public will provided much needed help for the religious refugees.

"Any immigrant without any resources needs the help of others," he said.

Members of ICIN said more Chaldean Catholics are expected to arrive in Knoxville soon.

comment @ Wednesday, December 01, 2010 6:38 PM
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comment @ Friday, June 07, 2013 10:42 AM
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comment @ Friday, June 07, 2013 10:42 AM
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comment @ Friday, June 07, 2013 10:42 AM
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comment @ Friday, June 07, 2013 10:42 AM
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comment @ Friday, June 07, 2013 10:42 AM
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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.