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Convert or Die! Iraqi Christians Under Fatwa of Death
By Guest Reporter :: Wednesday, April 18, 2007 :: 59657 Views :: Article Rating :: Law & Order, Government & Society

Baghdad, IRAQ – “Get rid of the cross or we will burn your Churches.” This is the threat aimed at the Chaldean Church of Sts Peter and Paul, located in the ancient Christian quarter of Baghdad, Dora. Local sources say an unknown armed Islamic group is behind the threats which are inseminating terror in the capital.  The website www.Ankawa.com and AINA news agency along with Asia News have reported a ravage and inhuman campaign of against Christians in the area.  Even Mosul, a Sunni stronghold, the Christian presence is become grave. 

The Islamic group active in Dora seems to have delivered an ultimatum to the Christian community there: convert to Islam or die!

Reports say that they have delivered a Fatwa forbidding Christians to wear the cross or make any religious gesture.  The Islamic decree that can not be issued without the complicacy of an Muslim cleric also permits the confiscation of goods and properties belonging to the Christian families who find themselves forced to flee their homes for safety at short notice.

After the Christians evacuated Babel College U.S. Military forcibly occupied the vacant property without permission and inadvertently increased tensions between Muslims and Christians.  The blunder has drawn angst by Islamic fanatics boldly claming that Christians are in collaboration with the occupiers and are approved targets for killing.  The false accusation has placed Christians in grave and immediate danger.

The Babel college, the only faculty of theology in the country, houses on of the most ancient religious libraries in the region, full of priceless manuscripts.  Because of the increased insecurity in the city and continual abductions of religious the faculty had transferred to Ankawa, in the north of Iraq this past January, leaving the building empty.

The US military broke into the facility and are now using it as an observation outpost reports AisaNews.  The building is located at a strategic crossroads: within a Sunni enclave, in front of a Shiite district.  Leaders from the local Church are imploring the military to leave.  The military recognizing their blunder have promised to abandon the structure in the coming weeks.

Nonetheless, the fatwa remains in effect and Christians in the region remain in doors and in hiding.  The Chaldean auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, Msgr. Shlemon Warduni tells AsiaNews “in the last 2 months many Churches have been forced to remove their crosses from their domes”.  In the case of the Church of St. George, Muslim extremists took the situation into their own hands: they climbed onto the roof and ripped out the cross.  In the Chaldean Church of St John, in Dora, which have been without a pastor for months now, the parishioners under threat and concern decided to move the cross to a safer place following repeated acts of intimidation.  

The same threats which have arrived at the Church of St. Peter and Paul, which has so far however withstood intimidation: the cross hasn’t been removed but the threats continue.  “The Iraqi people are tired – says Warduni – we have been suffering for far too long the situation has become unsustainable; we ask God to give us peace.  The Christians, just like the Muslims, want to rebuild Iraq, we don’t want to be forced to flee, because this is where we were born, this is where we have lived our lives.”

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St. Thomas, MI USA

St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church
6900 Maple Rd.
West Bloomfield, MI 48322
Tel: (248) 788-2460
Fax: (248) 788-2153

Founding Pastor:
Rev. Hanna Cheikho

Current Pastor:
Rev. Frank Kalabat

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Jirjis Abrahim

Rev. Emmanuel Rayes, Retired  


Rev. Frank Kalabat
 

Rev. Frank Kalabat was born in 1970 in San Diego, California and entered St. Francis Seminary of San Diego, California.  The admission to the Catholic seminary made him the first born U.S. Chaldean to enter an American seminary.  In 1992, Fr. Kalabat continued his studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan.  In July 1995, shortly after graduation he was ordained as priest by His Excellency Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim.  

Fr. Frank chose Mother of God Parish in Southfield, MI. as his first assignment serving the Chaldean community as an associate pastor for half a decade.  In 2001, Fr. Kalabat was elected to serve as Pastor of St. Tomas Parish in West Bloomfield, Michigan where he remains today.   

Rev. Jirjis Abrahim

Rev. Jirjis Abrahim was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1942. Upon graduation Fr. Abrahim was admitted to St. Peter Chaldean Seminary in Baghdad, Iraq.  After a decade of studies and numerous degrees, Fr. Abrhim was ordained a priest in 1967.  He chose to continue ministering in Baghdad, Iraq.  There he was appointed the headmaster of the catechism at Mother of Sorrows Cathedral.  Fr. Abrahim also assisted St. Therese Church in Baghdad until 1978.  Afterward he was asked to assist St. Joseph Church in Baghdad and was appointed Parochial Vicar from 1978-1992. 

In 1992, Fr. Abrahim was called upon to assist the growing Chaldean population in Michigan.  Upon his arrival he was assigned to St. Joseph Church in Tory, Michigan.  Two years later Fr. Abrahim was asked to become the pastor of a Parish community in Windsor, Canada  where he remained the parish pastor until 2001.

Continuing demographic changes in Michigan required Fr. Abrahim to return to St. Joseph Parish in Tory as a Parochial Vicar, where he remained until 2006.  In 2006 he was elected to St. Thomas Parish as Parochial Vicar in West Bloomfield, MI. where he currently serves the Chaldean community.

 

Rev. Emmanuel Rayes

Rev. Emmanuel Rays was born in Araden, Iraq in 1930.  He studied at St. John Dominican Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in 1954.  The Chaldean catholic ambassador ministered in northern Iraq from 1954-1963, in Syria and Lebanon from 1963-1980, and in the United Stated from 1980 to the present day.
 
Form 1980-1983, he was appointed associate pastor at Mother of God Parish in Southfield, Michigan.  From 1983-1989 he served as pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Detroit, Michigan.  During the early 1990’s he ministered to the Chaldean community in Farmington Hills and was at St. Joseph Parish in Tory where he was Parochial Vicar until 2000.

Although Fr. Rayes retired in 2001, he remains active in serving the community.  He is the author of many articles in Arabic and is the editor-in-chief of the Al Mishal and Al-Tariq magazine.  He has translated and continues to translate many books from French and English into Arabic.