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Iraqi Christians Demonstrate Democracy in Week-Long March for Justice
By Amer Hedow :: Saturday, March 29, 2008 :: 66836 Views :: Article Rating :: Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends

Ninevah, IRAQ - It would seem Iraqi Christians are able to embrace the democratic principles of petitioning government, free speech, and the right to assemble.  For most of the week, peaceful marches have been held by Iraqi Christians in hopes of drawing attention to the injustice and persecution Christians face.  The silent marches send reverberating waves throughout the country as other Iraqis look on in interest. 

Each day hundreds of Chaldeans and other Christians march down streets holding photos of Christian Martyrs.   Loud in action and small in talk the Iraqi Christians call for justice.  The council of Nineveh bishops, which include the community and religious leaders of all Christian communities in the Ninevah region of Iraq support the marches.

Men, women, and children march holding pictures of Archbishop Rahho to Fr Ragheed and Fr Paul Iskandar, all victims killed by radical Islamist hoping to drive Christians out of their land.  Marchers also carried hundreds of pictures of Christian family members who have been killed for their faith, resisting kidnapping attempts, refusal to convert, or because they owned shops that sold alcoholic beverages (banned by Islam).  The protestors walked through the streets of Bartella, Karamles, Qaraqosh, al Qosh.

The appeal of the bishops' council, announced in all the churches last March 23, cites the words of one of Archbishop Rahho's last homilies: "We are Iraqis, we want to build peace, to build Iraq, Iraq is ours too; we are for Iraq.  We are staying here, we have no enemies, we do not hate anyone".  The message clearly asked: to suspend all outward celebrations (it will soon be Easter for the Orthodox) except for liturgical ones; to fast on March 24 and 26; and to organise peaceful manifestations, so that justice may be done over the death of Archbishop Rahho.

The events surrounding the death of the archbishop of Mosul are still unclear.  The Iraqi authorities say they have arrested a group of people, including four brothers, who were involved in the kidnapping; they are thought to be former members of the regime of Saddam Hussein, who are believed to have sold the bishop to al Qaeda. 

Initially, there were said to have been confessions, in which those responsible recounted torturing the bishop, but then the story changed to suffocation, a method used to leave no traces on the body.  A last detail: it is thought that there is a video recording of the killing, but so far the police say they have not found it. 

The information released is raising doubts over the proper and transparent handling of the case on the part of the Iraqi government.  This may be doing nothing more than seeking the least discrediting way to leave behind a shameful incident that has exposed it yet again to media attention and world public opinion.

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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.