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Last Safe Haven for Iraqi Christians Taken by Al-Qaeda
By Guest Reporter :: Monday, October 13, 2008 :: 78517 Views :: Law & Order, Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends, Chaldean Federation of America

Mosul, IRAQ - "Now the last safe haven for Christians is gone," said Canon Andrew White, the vicar of St. George's church in Baghdad. During the past week, twelve Christians have been killed and more than 3,000 have left the city of Mosul, once considered a safe zone for persecuted Iraqi Christians.
 
Mosul, on the plain of Nineveh in northern Iraq, has long been home to one of the largest remaining Christian communities in the nation. Furthermore, in recent years the city has been a destination for persecuted Christians.
 
Unfortunately, the safety of Mosul was only relative to the rest of Iraq, where Christians are in constant danger from Islamic extremists (including al-Qaeda). In February, in the most well publicized incident of anti-Christian persecution, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul was kidnapped and killed. Still in possession of his cell phone, Rahho told his community not to pay the ransom being demanded for his return.
 
His Excellency Shlemon Wirduni, the auxiliary bishop of the Chaldean patriarch, received reports from Mosul that the assassins said they were murdering Iraqi Christians who "want an autonomous region." I recently reported on the effort of Chaldean bishops in the United States to lobby the Bush administration to support the creation of an autonomous area in the Nineveh Province to be administered by Christians.
 
The violence should not have been unexpected when CNN reported that, a week ago, leaflets distributed in several predominantly Christian neighborhoods contained threats that families should "either convert to Islam, or pay the jizyah, or leave the city, or face death." Jizyah is a tax paid by non-Muslims in exchange for protection -- the ransom Archbishop Rahho refused to allow to be paid for his life.
 
A few days later, checkpoints were set up in sections of Mosul where gunmen stopped vehicles and asked for identification papers in order to target Christians. According to one witness, some of the Christians killed were targeted in this way.
 
Hopes for more Christian participation in Iraqi politics were dashed recently when the Iraqi legislature voted to eliminate an article in the provincial election law guaranteeing a minimum level of Christian, and other minority, representation. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki immediately asked for the article's reinstatement, but not before Christian protests broke out in Mosul, Baghdad, Kirkuk, and elsewhere. The attacks against Iraqi Christians in Mosul began shortly after the protests started.
 
Chaldean leaders in the United States are alarmed by the increasing level of violence against Iraqi Christians in spite of both Iraqi and U.S. government promises to provide greater protection. Joseph T. Kassab is executive director of the Chaldean Federation of America. Kassab asks, "Why are these innocent people getting murdered and pushed out from their homes? They always insisted on being loyal Iraqis first. The capitals of the world open their doors to them, but most choose to stay."
 
It is estimated that about half of Iraq's 900,000 Christians have now left the country, leaving the remainder vulnerable to daily harassment, persecution, and violence. Kassab wonders why the situation keeps growing worse: "We appeal to the world leaders and the international community to save innocent lives, to preserve security, and to allow the displaced families to live in peace in their ancestral land."
 
As reported by McClatchey, Governor Kashmoula said the Christian deaths stem from the failure of security operations to control the movement of al-Qaeda in the region. Said Kashmoula, "Killing the peaceful Christians is a crime, and it doesn't pass without punishment."
 
Unfortunately, the likelihood that the murderers of these twelve Iraqi Christians will ever be brought to justice is growing more remote, despite Iraqi and U.S. promises that the remaining Christian communities will receive more, rather than less, protection. 
 
Deal W. Hudson is the director of InsideCatholic.com and the author of Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon and Schuster).

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.