Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Latest News & Information

Current Articles | Archives | Search

Baghdad Santa Returns to visit the kids in one Small Town in Iraq
By Guest Reporter :: Tuesday, December 25, 2007 :: 38140 Views :: Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends

Baghdad, IRAQ - Here's what Karrar Haider, a 10-year-old Shi'ite boy at a school in eastern Baghdad, told Santa he wants this year for the holidays:  "I have one wish to ask Santa Claus. Please bring peace to my country. Stop the bombs so I can play with my friends again."

Santa - who spends the rest of the year disguised as a 48-year-old Chaldean Christian monastery administrator named Jalal Hourmoz - said he was delighted to spread joy after two years when sectarian violence made a merry Christmas impossible.

"I stopped wearing the costume for two years. I was afraid of death. But this year it's a bit safer. So I'm back, to celebrate both Christmas and Eid," he said of the Christian and Muslim holidays that this year fall less than a week apart.

"I feel so happy to bring a smile to the faces of the children. They've suffered a lot and they deserve more than a guy wearing a Santa Claus costume with some simple gifts.

"I want to tell the world that Christians and Muslims in Iraq are brothers as we used to be before."

During the darkest days of Iraq's sectarian conflict, teaching respect for all faiths was a dangerous business. But at the al-Abtikar school in eastern Baghdad, it is a way of life.

The school is run by nuns from Iraq's small Chaldean Christian community, but most of its pupils are Muslims, a mixture of Shi'ites and Sunnis.

The nuns managed to keep the arrival of Santa Claus a secret from the 2,800 pupils until he showed up in his red suit and white shaggy beard, ringing a bell and passing out small toys.

Pupils ran outside, screaming with joy.

"We never differentiate between the students: Christians, Sunnis and Shi'ites are all equal. Our message is to offer education for all, with no exception," said Sister Ghufran Nayif, the school's principal.

To her, the coincidence that the Christian and Muslim holidays fall at the same time this year is a blessing.

"It's a sign from the holy God that we are all his creation, we should hold fast and nothing should divide us." she said.

"Children are living through daily suffering of violence, and we celebrate both happy occasions to draw a smile to their faces and tell them there is still hope in this life."

Or, as Rusul Mohammed, 14, a Muslim girl, explained the school's philosophy: "Today we are celebrating with our Christian brothers both Christmas and Muslim Eid.

"My wish is to live in peace all together," she said.

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.