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USCIRF - Chaldeans and Other Mideast Native Christians Face Extinction
By Guest Reporter :: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 :: 44183 Views :: Article Rating :: World News & Odds 'N' Ends

Leonard Leo’s video interview with Terry Jeffrey at CNSNews.com that despite the long-term U.S. military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, Christianity may well be wiped out in the region because, as CNSNews put it, of "severe and persistent persecution of Christians there" by Muslims.

During the interview Jeffrey asked “We are looking at two different countries where the United States invaded, occupied, changed their governments in the last decade — Iraq and Afghanistan — where it’s possible Christianity might be eradicated in our lifetime?”

Leo responded, “Yes, and, unfortunately, that is sort of the pattern throughout the Middle Eastern region. The flight of Christians out of the region is unprecedented and it’s increasing year by year. It’s a very, very alarming situation.”

The situation for Chaldeans and other Christians throughout the Mideast is worsening.  In its annual report, USCIRF observed:

Half or more of the pre-2003 Iraqi Christian community is believed to have left the country, with Christian leaders warning that the consequence of this flight may be the end of Christianity in Iraq. ... In 2003, there were thought to be 800,000 to 1.4 million Chaldean Catholics, Assyrian Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East members, Syriac Orthodox, Armenians (Catholic and Orthodox), Protestants, and Evangelicals in Iraq. Today, community leaders estimate the number of Christians to be around 500,000.

Leo told Jeffrey that the situation for Christians in Afghanistan is grim. The USCIRF report noted:
“Conditions for religious freedom remain exceedingly poor for minority religious communities and dissenting members of the majority faith, despite the presence of U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan for almost 10 years and the substantial investment of lives, resources, and expertise by the United States and the international community. The 2004 Afghan constitution has effectively established Islamic law as the law of the land.”

Many point to America’s disregard to human rights over their desire for control.  The critics point to how the U.S. helped hammer out a constitution for the new Afghanistan.  In that constitution, there is a repugnancy clause, which basically says anything that’s inconsistent with Sharia principles is violation of this constitution.

That clause, no matter what else is in the constitution, basically forecloses the kind of reform that is needed for human rights, because any extreme religious sub-sect can impose its radical view of Sharia and enshrine it in the constitutional system in Afghanistan.   “If that’s the kind of government system they have, there is no real way to ensure freedom of religion broadly speaking. There’s no way to ensure that religious minorities are going to have freedom in law,” says Leo.

Leo called the process of drafting the Afghan constitution "a disaster." He noted that there is just one remaining Jew in Afghanistan and that the last Christian church in the country was closed.

Pakistan, which still has a significant Christian population, is among the worst nations, according to Leo, in its persecution of Christians and its insistence upon strict Islamic blasphemy laws. Leo said that he understands that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is complex, but that if we cannot protect the rights of Christians or even of Muslims who do not accept the religious Islamic view of other Pakistani Muslims, then the purpose for our help to the Pakistani government is undermined.

Leo adds that the American government failed to have a clear plan to exit Iraq properly and without lingering killing of minority groups.  “The potential for tragedy is significant,” Leo says.  In fact, when asked if Christianity might be eradicated in Afghanistan after American troops are withdraw, he said “yes.”

When asked by Jeffrey if the “facts” upon which the commission was basing its report were in dispute, Leo said that there was generally agreement on the level of religious freedom. While Leo noted that the State Department had a broader agenda than his commission, he said that the State Department did not question the findings.

Leo warned that more than just the Christian faith, which has historically been an integral part of the region, will unravel if the Christian presence ends. Islam itself will become increasing narrow and totalitarian, he said, and deviating Muslims will be treated as apostates.

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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.