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Eastern and Western Catholic Churches Helping Iraqi Refugees in Syria
By Amer Hedow :: Thursday, November 27, 2008 :: 43553 Views :: Government & Society, Chaldean Churches

Damascus, SYRIA - Sawsan Hussin was worried about her son, Mustafa. The 10-year-old had brought the horror of Iraq with him when the family fled to Syria.

He had nightmares and would cower at the slightest noise, his hands over his ears. Hussin knew he needed help, but as the refugee family's savings ran out, there was no money to pay for professional help.

Then a fellow refugee, a Christian friend who had been resettled in Canada, told Hussin by e-mail that she should take her son to see the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who run a variety of services for Iraqis in Syria. Hussin, a Muslim, did just that, and the sisters got the boy into therapy.

Hussin praises the work of a particular Good Shepherd nun, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of her work.

"She doesn't see us as Muslim or Christian, but just as people. She's the only one here who opened her heart to us. We left Iraq on a dark night, and she has made us feel welcome here in a strange land," Hussin said.

The Good Shepherd sisters provide Iraqi refugees with a variety of services, ranging from a telephone hotline to a shelter for women and families who are victims of abuse. They also provide skills training for young refugees.

"These families see no future through their sorrow and pain. What is needed is skills training and jobs for youth, to get them out of the house, to get them to begin to think about the future," said the Good Shepherd sister.

The flood of Iraqi refugees into Syria has produced big changes for the Church in the country. Caritas Syria, the local affiliate of the international umbrella group of Catholic aid agencies, has expanded its outreach. Today, it manages more than £2 million a year in projects targeting vulnerable Iraqi refugees, and it co-operates in ecumenical programs with the country's Orthodox community.

Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Absi of Damascus, a Melkite Catholic and president of Caritas Syria, said the Catholic bishops' conference decided not to officially register Caritas with the Syrian government, an unusual development in this strictly controlled nation. He said that decision has freed the Church from bureaucratic delays and allowed a more flexible and timely response to the changing needs of the refugee community.

"The Syrian government (officials) respect and trust the Church, so they are allowing us to work without challenging us. They know about our work, but they don't require us to register. The Church works with the poor and vulnerable, and the government is letting us do that with complete freedom," Bishop Absi said.

Mar Addai Church, MI USA

Mar Addai Chaldean Catholic Church
24010 Coolidge Hwy.
Oak Park, MI 48237
Tel: (248) 547-4648
Fax: (248) 399-9089

Congregation Organizer:
Rev. Michael J. Bazzi

Church Founding Pastor:
Rev. Stephen Kallabat

Current Pastor:
Rev. Stephan Kallabat

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Fadi Habib Khalaf

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Sulemina Denha
 


 

Rev. Stephen Kallabat


Fr. Stephan Kallabat was born in Telkaif, Iraq.  After completing seven years of scholarly work for the priesthood in Mosul, Iraq Fr. Kallabat was accepted at the prestigious university in Rome.  There he spent six additional years of scholarly work in the areas of philosophy and theology and an additional four years in scriptural studies. 

Ordained a priest in 1966 by Pope Paul VI he returned to Iraq to serve the Holy Family parish until his departure to Michigan, U.S. in 1979 to serve the growing population of Chaldeans.  Fr. Kallabat was appointed assistant pastor, then pastor of Mar Addai Parish in Oak Park, Michigan. 

Hitting the ground running, Fr. Kallabat is credited with raising the necessary funds to provide Chaldeans in the local area a church and community center of their own.  Fr. Kallabat continues to serve the parish and Chaldean community as their pastor.   

Rev. Fadi Habib Khalaf

Fr. Fadi Habib Khalaf was born in Baghdad May 10, 1974.  Fr. Khalaf graduated from Baghdad University in 1997 and soon after joined the Chaldean seminary in Baghdad.  While there Fr. Khalaf earned a scholarship to attend the Urbanian Pontifical University in Rome.  There he earned another bachelor’s degree in theology and was ordained deacon in Rome on May 8, 2004. 

Fr. Khalaf then returned to Baghdad where he was officially ordained as a priest.  Afterward Fr. Khalaf returned to Rome to further his studies.  In 2006 Fr. Khalaf was appointed to serve Chaldeans in the United States.  

In the summer of 2006 he arrived to the Chaldean diocese of St. Thomas the Apostle and was cardinated into the Diocese and elected to serve at Mar Addai parish on March 15, 2007 as the Parochial Vicar.

Rev. Suleiman Denha

Rev. Suleiman Denha was born in Telkaif, Iraq.  He began his priestly studies in 1951 in Mosul, Iraq and was ordained in 1959.  Fr. Denha taught in Telkaif until 1961, when he was appointed pastor in Basra, Iraq in 1966. 

After immigrating to the Unite States in 1979, he was appointed to serve the Chaldean community in Virginia.  A year later, Fr. Denha was recruited to assist the much larger population of Chaldeans in Detroit. 

Upon his arrival Fr. Denha assisted Fr. Yasso at Sacred Heart Church.  In 1982 he was asked to temporally assist St. Joseph Church in Troy, returning a year later Sacred Heart. 

In 1991, he was appointed to Mar Addai Church in Oak Park, Michigan as the Parochial Vicar, where he still serves the community today.