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Chaldean Families in Iraq Targeted for Their Beliefs
By Guest Reporter :: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 :: 63925 Views :: Law & Order, Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends

Georgina, CAN - A Georgina man is in a desperate race against time to rescue his sister and her family from Baghdad, Iraq.

Described as the most dangerous city on Earth, Baghdad is torn apart by sectarian violence amid a wider civil war.

It is a city where how you worship God can literally get you killed.

Sam Taan, who operates the Daisy Mart in Sutton, said the urgency to get his sister, Ban, her husband Raad (their last names are withheld over safety concerns) and their two young sons, grew last month when Raad's brother Fatah was murdered by one of the many Islamic militias that prowl the city.

“He was working in a house doing some plumbing. You do whatever job you can get,” Mr. Taan said. “He finished and had just left to go home when five guys came up to him.”

The five armed men were members of the notorious militia controlled by fanatical Shi’a cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.

“Who are you?” they asked him.

He told them.

“What sect are you?”

This is a question often asked to determine if the person accosted is a Shi’a or Sunni, the two Islamic sides locked in bloody conflict and ethnic cleansing.

Fatah, 40, said he wasn’t with any of the two. “I’m a Christian,” he said.

He was told he had to convert. He refused.

“That was it,” Mr. Taan said. “They shot him immediately in the head. That’s the way it is over there now. Today, you are alive. Tomorrow, you could be dead.”

Things are growing steadily worse for his sister’s family, he said.

Raad can’t find work, so they have to rely on what she makes in her job as an accountant for the government.

Their two children only go to school occasionally because of the danger.

Children have not been spared in the hate-filled ethnic conflict, victims of murder squads or fanatical suicide bombers.

They have been harassed and threatened for being Christian, in their case with the Chaldean Catholic church.

The Chaldeans have been in the region since about 600 BC, long before the emergence of modern Iraq.

There is growing evidence Christians and other minority religions are targeted for ethnic cleansing by al-Queda in Iraq.

Life under Saddam Hussein was harsh, he said, but it wasn’t the bloody anarchy it is today, as the ill-fated United States invasion and occupation stretches into its fourth year.

He will co-sponsor his family to come to Canada, but he needs a community sponsor — an organization, association or corporation, for example a service club, Mr. Taan said.

Under Canada’s refugee sponsorship program, the community sponsor must have the financial ability to support the family if necessary, usually for a year.

Mr. Taan has contacted MP Peter Van Loan’s office.

“They’ve been very helpful in providing the information,” he said. “Now hopefully, someone will step forward.”

Mr. Taan came to Canada about 10 years ago, sponsoring his wife, parents and younger brother to come here three years later.

All are now proud Canadians, he said.

Mr. Taan and his wife, Rita, and their children, Lourdes, 3 and Lawrence, 1, live in Keswick.

“We’re very anxious to get them out,” he said. “But there are so many obstacles. I hope someone can help us. My sister is my parents’ only daughter. They are the last of our immediate family left in Iraq.”

Since the outbreak of war, Christians have fled in record numbers.

A little more than half of the original 750,000 are left, most of them in the safer Kurdish region in the north.

In places such as Baghdad, though, they have been threatened, assaulted and murdered and many of their churches destroyed.

Mr. Taan hopes his sister’s family can come to Canada and settle in Georgina, where he and his own family have found a safe haven and a welcoming community.

Anyone who can help, can call Mr. Taan at 905-722-6341 or e-mail

Report provided by John Slykhuis

Sacred Heart Parish, MI USA


Sacred Heart Parish
310 W. Seven Mile. Rd.
Detroit, MI 48203
Tel: (313) 368-6214
Fax: (313) 891-0132

The parish was established by Rev. Jacob Yasso in 1973

Rev. Jacob Yasso

Rev. Jacob Yasso was born in the village of Telkaif, Iraq.  After completing high school he was recruited to Rome and Urbaniana University where he completed his Masters Degree in philosophy and Theology.  Fr. Yasso was ordained a priest in 1960 and served the Diocese of Mosul, where he worked in the public school system. Fr. Yasso was also asked by the Patriarch to teach at the Patriarchal Seminary in Baghdad, where he served as administrator, professor of philosophy and religious life, and rector of the minor seminary. 

In 1964, Fr. Yasso was appointed to the United States to serve the growing Chaldean community in Detroit.  There he served as the 4th Pastor of Mother of God Parish.  .  In 1972, the Patriarch charged Fr. Yasso with building a new parish for the Chaldeans in Detroit.  In taking great pains to care for the community Fr. Yasso accelerated the development of a new church and community center.  In 1975, Fr. Yasso completed the development of Sacred Heart Parish in Detroit and shortly thereafter he added the Chaldean Center of America in 1980, 

A few years later in 1982, Fr. Yasso was asked to assist the late Fr. Kattoula at St. Peter’s Church in San Diego, CA.  Before long, Fr. Yasso was once again recruited to Rome to study new Canon Law of the Church.  While in Rome Fr. Yasso completed his third Masters Degree in Church Law, making him the only Chaldean priest trained in Canon Law. 

In 1988, the Patriarch and Vatican authorities asked Fr. Yasso to travel to Canada and establish a parish and community center.  While there he served as a Tribunal Judge for the Archdiocese of Toronto.  Four years later Fr. Yasso returned to Sacred Heart church in Detroit to help care for the remaining Chaldean community residence in the Detroit area.  To this day, Fr. Yasso continues to serve as the parish pastor creating activities and advising the City of Detroit on community related matters. 

Fr. Yasso is a member of the International WYCLIF Bible translators, since 1975, and has completed the translation of the New Testament from Greek and Aramaic into Arabic and spoken Chaldean.   The publication of his scholarly work is set to be released soon.