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Last Safe Haven for Iraqi Christians Taken by Al-Qaeda
By Guest Reporter :: Monday, October 13, 2008 :: 131455 Views :: Article Rating :: Law & Order, Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends, Chaldean Federation of America

Mosul, IRAQ - "Now the last safe haven for Christians is gone," said Canon Andrew White, the vicar of St. George's church in Baghdad. During the past week, twelve Christians have been killed and more than 3,000 have left the city of Mosul, once considered a safe zone for persecuted Iraqi Christians.
 
Mosul, on the plain of Nineveh in northern Iraq, has long been home to one of the largest remaining Christian communities in the nation. Furthermore, in recent years the city has been a destination for persecuted Christians.
 
Unfortunately, the safety of Mosul was only relative to the rest of Iraq, where Christians are in constant danger from Islamic extremists (including al-Qaeda). In February, in the most well publicized incident of anti-Christian persecution, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul was kidnapped and killed. Still in possession of his cell phone, Rahho told his community not to pay the ransom being demanded for his return.
 
His Excellency Shlemon Wirduni, the auxiliary bishop of the Chaldean patriarch, received reports from Mosul that the assassins said they were murdering Iraqi Christians who "want an autonomous region." I recently reported on the effort of Chaldean bishops in the United States to lobby the Bush administration to support the creation of an autonomous area in the Nineveh Province to be administered by Christians.
 
The violence should not have been unexpected when CNN reported that, a week ago, leaflets distributed in several predominantly Christian neighborhoods contained threats that families should "either convert to Islam, or pay the jizyah, or leave the city, or face death." Jizyah is a tax paid by non-Muslims in exchange for protection -- the ransom Archbishop Rahho refused to allow to be paid for his life.
 
A few days later, checkpoints were set up in sections of Mosul where gunmen stopped vehicles and asked for identification papers in order to target Christians. According to one witness, some of the Christians killed were targeted in this way.
 
Hopes for more Christian participation in Iraqi politics were dashed recently when the Iraqi legislature voted to eliminate an article in the provincial election law guaranteeing a minimum level of Christian, and other minority, representation. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki immediately asked for the article's reinstatement, but not before Christian protests broke out in Mosul, Baghdad, Kirkuk, and elsewhere. The attacks against Iraqi Christians in Mosul began shortly after the protests started.
 
Chaldean leaders in the United States are alarmed by the increasing level of violence against Iraqi Christians in spite of both Iraqi and U.S. government promises to provide greater protection. Joseph T. Kassab is executive director of the Chaldean Federation of America. Kassab asks, "Why are these innocent people getting murdered and pushed out from their homes? They always insisted on being loyal Iraqis first. The capitals of the world open their doors to them, but most choose to stay."
 
It is estimated that about half of Iraq's 900,000 Christians have now left the country, leaving the remainder vulnerable to daily harassment, persecution, and violence. Kassab wonders why the situation keeps growing worse: "We appeal to the world leaders and the international community to save innocent lives, to preserve security, and to allow the displaced families to live in peace in their ancestral land."
 
As reported by McClatchey, Governor Kashmoula said the Christian deaths stem from the failure of security operations to control the movement of al-Qaeda in the region. Said Kashmoula, "Killing the peaceful Christians is a crime, and it doesn't pass without punishment."
 
Unfortunately, the likelihood that the murderers of these twelve Iraqi Christians will ever be brought to justice is growing more remote, despite Iraqi and U.S. promises that the remaining Christian communities will receive more, rather than less, protection. 
 
Deal W. Hudson is the director of InsideCatholic.com and the author of Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon and Schuster).

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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.