Wednesday, August 10, 2022
St. Thomas News & Information
Latest News & Information

Current Articles | Archives | Search

Iraqi National Museum Reopens With Christian Art Hidden Away
By Neda Ayar :: Thursday, February 26, 2009 :: 108687 Views :: Article Rating :: Sports, Art, and Entertainment, Community & Culture, Government & Society

Baghdad, IRAQ - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki attended the inaugural re-opening of Iraq’s National Museum.  “The opening is another sign of Iraq’s stabilization,” says Thair Yatooma, of the Iraqi Citizen Council of Art, an advisory group of the National Museum.  “The opening of the National Museum in Baghdad is a message from the government to foreign tourists: you are welcome." 

The Prime Minister cut the ribbon at the official reopening saying, "We have ended the black wind (of violence) and have started the reconstruction process." This morning, the first tourists entered the museum: for now, only guided tours for groups are allowed; it will take time to reopen the museum to private citizens.

However, some say the Museum must bring the Christian history of Iraq back into the light.  The National Museum had a long standing policy of prohibiting any display of Christian art to the general public.  The section dedicated to the Christian community could be visited only by foreign tourists; it was not accessible to Arab Iraqis. “The Christian presence is profound, deeply grounded, setting down roots over centuries; Saddam Hussein may have protected it, he always concealed it from the eyes of ordinary citizens" says Yatooma.

The museum, was sacked soon after the American invasion in March of 2003, and had remained closed since then.  The sacking of the National Museum perpetrated by vandals and art traffickers - before the indifferent eyes of the American army - was one of the signs of the failure of the U.S. post-invasion strategy. More than 15,000 works of art were destroyed or stolen by foreign collectors.

Efforts by the international community have permitted the recovery of about half of the materials, but UNESCO estimates say that about 7,000 objects are still missing, 50% of which have immense historical and artistic value.

"Art is a treasure for all of Iraq, which does not simply have oil underground. This should be encouraged, because it will be one of the main attractions for restoring the flow of tourists to the country,” added Yatooma.  He says that he visited the museum "before the fall of Saddam," and that it constitutes a "point of pride" for all Iraq, even if Christian history and tradition were "hidden" from the eyes of Arab citizens.

Yatooma talks about a "black hole" corresponding "to the period in which Christianity flourished," and expresses his hope that the new course of the National Museum "will take into consideration the presence and value of the Christian community, which played a leading role in the historical-cultural tradition of the country."

But the signs coming from the current parliament - still made up of imams and ayatollahs - do not bring hopes of "positive developments over the short term." "The most striking work," the Chaldean intellectual concludes, "are the winged bulls of the Assyrian period, dating back to around the first millennium B.C. They are huge and beautiful, a symbol of protection and defense against spies and the impure. They represent a national patrimony."

Rating
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.