The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, October 1, 2010

U.S. Chaldean Catholic Bishop on the Persecution of Iraqi Christians

Because of the turmoil in Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein half of the approximately one million pre-invasion Christians have fled Iraq, largely because of persecution. The invasion by the US-led coalition turned out to be one of those good-news, bad-news situations. Yes, the coalition rid the country and the world of a sadistic and dangerous dictator, but that same coalition misread the outcome. Saddam's ouster left a vacuum that allowed Jihadists and other bad guys to move in and do bad things to the Iraqi Christians. It would seem the US and other Western nations in the coalition really didn't understand the nature of Iraqi society with its strong tribal loyalties and explosive mixture of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, plus Christians and ethnic Kurds, all thrown into a pot in which nothing melts. It's one of those societies where, with the removal of a strong central government, power rules at the local level. And the Christians don't have a lot of power.

As you may or may not know, most Catholics in Iraq are of the Chaldean Catholic rite, one of the many Eastern rites of the Catholic Church, all in full communion with Rome. According to a Chaldean Catholic website, "there are approximately 150,000 Chaldeans in the U.S.A. They're spread all over the country but mainly in Detroit, San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago, Turlock, San Jose and Arizona." Chaldean Catholics have two dioceses in the United States, one in Detroit and a second in San Diego. The Bishop of the Diocese of St. Thomas the Apostle, located in Detroit, is Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim who was installed 28 years ago. This past weekend, Bishop Ibrahim celebrated a special Mass of thanksgiving at the Catholic cathedral in Knoxville, Tennessee for a large group of displaced Chaldean Catholic families who now live and worship there. This was a particularly special celebration for these refugees since on this day they were able to worship in their familiar Eastern rite and in their native language.

This day in which the refugees and their bishop came together for worship and community was also an occasion to initiate a new organization, Iraqi Christians in Need. The organization is devoted to helping the many Christian refugees from Iraq and to educate the American public on their situation. According to an article published on Catholic Online, Bishop Ibrahim hopes to establish missions wherever these refugees live enabling them to "worship and pray for peace and understanding in the world, so that all peoples may practice their faith in peace and security." He also suggested that President Obama's support of Islamic nations has emboldened the jihadists in their attacks against Christians while pleas for protection fall on deaf ears. It's a very sad situation. This is a very worthy ministry and all American Catholics should willingly support these brothers and sisters in Christ who have suffered so much.

I've included a video below that was produced by Iraqi Christians in Need.

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