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Chaldean Christmas Party for Refugees Offers Hope and Peace
By Sam Yousif :: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 :: 111182 Views :: Article Rating :: Community & Culture, Chaldean Churches

Michigan, USA - The Chaldean Catholic Diocese of the United States of America held a Christmas party for Chaldeans in Michigan.  For many, this was their first Christmas celebration in safety since the war began. 

More than 1,200 guests gathered in the prestigious Bella Hall on Sunday.  All hoping to bring peace to so many who still worry about their loved ones caught in the turmoil and persecution of Iraqi Christians.  Others silently cried as they reflected on the situations of their loved ones trapped in foreign countries as refugees. 

One refugee family who arrived to America was Bushra Alawerdi, her husband and four children.  Alawerdi  tells reporters that in her area in Baghdad, they invaded homes, threatened their lives, and stole property.   "We had no choice but to leave. And, no, I would not like to return,” she says.  Bravely Alawerdi shares through an interpreter, “The language is tough for us here. We are still looking for jobs. The money is short. But, for sure, I am more happy, this year, than last year."

Chaldeans frustrated with western countries who have turned a blind eye to the onslaught and persecution the people faced since the war.  Ignoring their plight, the Christians became targets by fanatical Muslims to raise money for terrorist acts.   Nearly a million fled the country creating a human crisis in countries like Syria and Jordon.  Long delays in processing the refugee status of the Chaldeans worsened their plight, as they languished, waiting to join family and relatives scattered throughout the world.

The frustration is also expressed by political leaders in America who continue to push the Bush Administration to act.  Rep. Frank Wolf, Republican from Virginia said Tuesday at an event sponsored by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom that the Bush administration has “turned a blind eye” to the plight of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq,.
 
Wolf blamed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and even Christian churches in the United States for not coming to the aid of people in Iraq who are fleeing the country by the thousands to avoid torture and even death because of their allegiance to non-Muslim faiths.
 
“We are spending billions of dollars and have shed the blood of some of this country’s finest, and the U.S. government has not done a darn thing to protect the freedom and safety – forget freedom – the safety of Christians in Iraq,” Wolf said. “Secretary Rice has failed when it comes to this point.

Republicans in both the House and Senate have continually attacked Bush for his mishandling of the war and his cabinet’s lack of protection for minorities in Iraq.   “The lack of effective government action to protect these communities from abuses has established Iraq among the most dangerous places on earth for religious minorities,” said Felice D. Gaer, chairwoman of the commission.
 
Aside from a panel of seven of the nine commissioners, several other lawmakers weighed in on the commission’s report and recommendations at the press conference.
 
“In the last three months alone it is estimated that about half of the 20,000 Christians in the largely Kurdish city of Mosul have fled that city,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said in a prepared statement. “Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, over one-third of the Christian population of Iraq, a community of some 800,000, have left the country.”
 
Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, co-chairmen of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the lawmakers said, “The Iraqi government has a moral obligation to protect the rights of all minority communities by implementing concrete solutions to ensure their safety.”

Cardin and other lawmakers added, “The United States must take the lead and provide a ‘humanitarian surge’ in responding to this crisis.”

However, the rhetoric has done little to help the struggling Chaldean families orphaned in the desert. 

Little is being done to help minorities in Iraq and barriers from the Iraqi government keep religious groups for helping refugees. 

With very limited resources and little if any political clout, Chaldean groups have been active in helping Iraqi miniorities.  Groups have formed to help adopt refugee families left in the desert and the Chaldean church in America continues to pound the drums and rally their parishioners to help.

Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim, leader of the Chaldean Catholic diocese decided to organize the large Christmas Party.  "The decision to make a Christmas dinner for the refugees and the new arrivals in the United States is to show them that there are brothers and sisters who love them here, and they will try to make them happy in every way that is possible," he says.  "We want them to feel that they are not abandoned by others," Ibrahim added. "We want them to feel that there are people behind them who are thinking of them, and who love them."

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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.