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Chaldean Christmas Party for Refugees Offers Hope and Peace
By Sam Yousif :: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 :: 50447 Views :: Community & Culture, Chaldean Churches

Michigan, USA - The Chaldean Catholic Diocese of the United States of America held a Christmas party for Chaldeans in Michigan.  For many, this was their first Christmas celebration in safety since the war began. 

More than 1,200 guests gathered in the prestigious Bella Hall on Sunday.  All hoping to bring peace to so many who still worry about their loved ones caught in the turmoil and persecution of Iraqi Christians.  Others silently cried as they reflected on the situations of their loved ones trapped in foreign countries as refugees. 

One refugee family who arrived to America was Bushra Alawerdi, her husband and four children.  Alawerdi  tells reporters that in her area in Baghdad, they invaded homes, threatened their lives, and stole property.   "We had no choice but to leave. And, no, I would not like to return,” she says.  Bravely Alawerdi shares through an interpreter, “The language is tough for us here. We are still looking for jobs. The money is short. But, for sure, I am more happy, this year, than last year."

Chaldeans frustrated with western countries who have turned a blind eye to the onslaught and persecution the people faced since the war.  Ignoring their plight, the Christians became targets by fanatical Muslims to raise money for terrorist acts.   Nearly a million fled the country creating a human crisis in countries like Syria and Jordon.  Long delays in processing the refugee status of the Chaldeans worsened their plight, as they languished, waiting to join family and relatives scattered throughout the world.

The frustration is also expressed by political leaders in America who continue to push the Bush Administration to act.  Rep. Frank Wolf, Republican from Virginia said Tuesday at an event sponsored by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom that the Bush administration has “turned a blind eye” to the plight of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq,.
 
Wolf blamed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and even Christian churches in the United States for not coming to the aid of people in Iraq who are fleeing the country by the thousands to avoid torture and even death because of their allegiance to non-Muslim faiths.
 
“We are spending billions of dollars and have shed the blood of some of this country’s finest, and the U.S. government has not done a darn thing to protect the freedom and safety – forget freedom – the safety of Christians in Iraq,” Wolf said. “Secretary Rice has failed when it comes to this point.

Republicans in both the House and Senate have continually attacked Bush for his mishandling of the war and his cabinet’s lack of protection for minorities in Iraq.   “The lack of effective government action to protect these communities from abuses has established Iraq among the most dangerous places on earth for religious minorities,” said Felice D. Gaer, chairwoman of the commission.
 
Aside from a panel of seven of the nine commissioners, several other lawmakers weighed in on the commission’s report and recommendations at the press conference.
 
“In the last three months alone it is estimated that about half of the 20,000 Christians in the largely Kurdish city of Mosul have fled that city,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said in a prepared statement. “Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, over one-third of the Christian population of Iraq, a community of some 800,000, have left the country.”
 
Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, co-chairmen of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the lawmakers said, “The Iraqi government has a moral obligation to protect the rights of all minority communities by implementing concrete solutions to ensure their safety.”

Cardin and other lawmakers added, “The United States must take the lead and provide a ‘humanitarian surge’ in responding to this crisis.”

However, the rhetoric has done little to help the struggling Chaldean families orphaned in the desert. 

Little is being done to help minorities in Iraq and barriers from the Iraqi government keep religious groups for helping refugees. 

With very limited resources and little if any political clout, Chaldean groups have been active in helping Iraqi miniorities.  Groups have formed to help adopt refugee families left in the desert and the Chaldean church in America continues to pound the drums and rally their parishioners to help.

Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim, leader of the Chaldean Catholic diocese decided to organize the large Christmas Party.  "The decision to make a Christmas dinner for the refugees and the new arrivals in the United States is to show them that there are brothers and sisters who love them here, and they will try to make them happy in every way that is possible," he says.  "We want them to feel that they are not abandoned by others," Ibrahim added. "We want them to feel that there are people behind them who are thinking of them, and who love them."

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.