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Eastern and Western Catholic Churches Helping Iraqi Refugees in Syria
By Amer Hedow :: Thursday, November 27, 2008 :: 44229 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.

St. George, MI USA
St. George Chaldean Catholic Church
45700 Dequinder Rd.,
Shelby Twp., MI 48317
Tel: (586) 254-7221
Fax: (586) 254-2874
 
Pastor: Rev.
Emanuel Shaleta
Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Basel Yaldo

Rev. Emanuel Shaleta 
Rev. Emanuel Hana Isho Shaleta was born in the village of Peshabur in northern Iraq. After completing his primary education he applied and was admitted in September 1971, to the illustrious St. John Seminary in Mosul, Iraq. In 1977 Rev. Shaleta was awarded a scholarship to study philosophy and theology in the renowned Urbaniana Pontifical University in Rome. There he obtained a Ph.D. in Biblical Theology. 
 
The reverends impressive work earned him the honor to be ordained to the priesthood by the hands of Pope John Paul II, in St. Peter Basilica in Rome on May 31, 1984. 
 
On June 3, 1987, Fr. Shaleta was assigned to serve as pastor for St. Paul Assyrian Chaldean Catholic Church in North Hollywood, California, where he served for just about a decade and a half. 
 
In December 2000, Fr. Shaleta was called to assist St. Jospeh Catholic Chaldean Church in Troy, Michigan and shortly thereafter was appointed pastor in 2002. Fr. Shaleta’s impressive leadership merited a unanimous appointment as the first pastor of St. George Chaldean Catholic Church, in Shelby Twp. Michigan, billed as the largest Chaldean church in the world. Fr. Shaleta continues to this day to impressively lead the faithful and offer wonderful opportunities and service to the community. 
 
Rev. Basel Yaldo
 
Rev. Basel Yaldo was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1970. Rev. Yaldo graduated from the National Teachers College in Iraq in 1989 and was drafted in the army in 1990. In 1993, he was honorably discharged for his service. A year later Rev. Yaldo was admitted to Babel College in Baghdad to study philosophy and theology. There Fr. Yaldo, received a scholarship to study in Rome at Urban College, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in theology in 2001. 
 
On November 23, 2002, Fr. Yaldo was ordained a priest by His Excellency Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Thomas the Apostle for the Chaldeans. Fr. Yaldo continued his studies whereby he completed a masters degree in Dogmatic Theology with a focus on Marian studies from Urban College in 2003. 
 
The following year he was appointed assistant director of the seminary in the Dora district of Baghdad, and taught Dogmatic Theology at Babel College. His commanding leadership and steadfast skills earned him the secretarial appointment to Patriarch Emanuel III Delly. Upon completion of his duties as patriarchal secretary, Fr. Yaldo was nominated and selected as assistant pastor to St. George Chaldean Catholic Church Shelby Township, Michigan.