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Chaldean Protest Raising Awareness
By Amer Hedow :: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 :: 73927 Views :: Article Rating :: Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends

Mosul, IRAQ— Shocking the conscience of anyone who would dare pay a few minutes of attention, Christians are being mowed down in Mosul.  Community activists in Australia, England, US, Denmark, and Germany are begging world governments to do more than talk.  Activists are protesting in front of city halls, holding meetings, getting petitions signed, attempting any and all efforts to raise the awareness and conscience of world leaders, turning a blind eye to the genocide of Iraqi Christians. 

Nearly 10,000 Christians — roughly half the city's Christian population — have fled this month because of organized and targeted threats and attacks, according to Iraqi officials.  Christians in Iraq are fast losing faith and trust with the Iraq government.  Few Iraqi Christians are returning to the restive city of Mosul despite government pledges of financial support and protection, officials said Wednesday.

Attempts to bribe families back into the city have fallen on deaf ears. The prime minister offered every Christian family that returns to Mosul 1 million Iraqi dinars — about $865, said Jawdat Ismaeel, a local migration official.  But less than a handful of Christians have returned, he said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed today  to punish armed groups which have attacked and killed Christians in Mosul.  Iraq "will punish those who caused the displacement of Christians from their homes, and hold accountable those who stood behind the armed groups which carried out these crimes," Maliki was quoted as saying in a statement.

Maliki, who was meeting with Iraqi Christian leaders, called the violence part of a greater "political scheme" that was doomed to fail.  He stressed that police would continue to provide security while the government would take whatever steps necessary to help Iraq's minority Christian community.  "Their (the Christians) departure from Iraq would be an insult to the Iraqi people," he said.

Christians weary over promises continue to see their existence erode.  Efforts to keep Christians represented in the Iraqi constitution was stripped out at the eleventh hour and calls for a Christian province were rejected.   The recent series of killings, widely blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq, has occurred as the religious minority stepped up lobbying efforts to ensure its representation in upcoming provincial elections in the predominantly Muslim country.

Islamic extremists have frequently targeted Christians and other religious minorities since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, forcing tens of thousands to flee Iraq. However, attacks had declined as areas became more secure after a U.S. troop buildup, a U.S.-funded Sunni revolt against al-Qaida and a Shiite militia cease-fire.

The Iraqi government is attempting to convince the world that the exodus of Iraq Christians out of Mosul has been stemmed.  "The flight of Christians from Mosul has ceased," Ghanem al-Ghanam, director of Iraq's human rights ministry, said in a statement.

He said a fact-finding mission found that 2,275 families -- based on an average of four persons per family -- had abandoned their homes and jobs, taking shelter in Christian villages on the northern and eastern fringes of Nineveh province.
Lt. Gen. Riyadh Jalal Tawfiq, the Iraqi military commander for Ninevah province, said the government was fulfilling its responsibility to "give protection to every family that returns home."  He said the security situation in Mosul was improving. Security checkpoints have been set up and foot patrols are checking the houses of displaced families to see who has returned, he said.  "We urge other families to come back," Tawfiq said. "We will ensure their protection."

But few Iraqi Christians are buying the governments press announcements and continue looking for ways to flee. 

Across oceans and continents, many Christians are organizing pressure on world governments to take action.  About 100 people gathered in downtown Phoenix yesterday to advocate for the rights of Iraqi Christians and raise awareness about the religious and ethnic attacks occurring in the region. 

Protesters stood in front of Phoenix City Hall, holding signs that read, "Silent genocide: Who will help the Christians of Iraq?" while speakers urged Americans to petition to their state officials to stand up for the rights of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq.

One of the issues at the forefront of the protest concerned "Article 50," which was part of the Iraq Election Law in preliminary drafts but then eliminated. The article was designed to protect electoral rights in the parliament by reserving seats in a quota system for minorities. Protestors are appealing to the international community to demand the article's reinstatement.

Demonstrators are also asking that the United States and United Nations form a committee to investigate and monitor the attacks and intimidation tactics committed against Iraqi Christians.

The same efforts are occurring in Turlock and San Diego, California as well as Southfield, Michigan whereby hundreds of community leaders are gathering.  The group from Michigan is sending a delegation to Washington D.C. to meet.  Sydney, Australia and London, UK have also reported groups protesting too raise awareness.   

All community leaders agree little action will be taken unless each individual takes action by calling their local, state, and national representatives and demand efforts to protect Iraqi Christians. 

Since the US-led invasion of 2003 more than 200 Christians have been killed across Iraq and a large number of churches attacked, with the violence reaching shocking proportions in recent weeks, particularly in the north.

Around 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq at the time of the invasion, but the number has since shrunk by around a third as members of the minority community have fled the country, according to Christian leaders.

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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.