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Californai, USA - Chaldean leaders from around the world recently met in Rancho San Diego, California to discuss the ongoing challenges the Christians of Iraq continue to face. Frustrated over the lack of support and reluctance to support Christians of the Middle East, the representatives gathered to discuss options. Chaldean leaders from as far as Australia, Canada, UK, Syria, Jordon, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Mexico, Norway, and the US made up over 15 countries of delegates. A historic gathering they called it. The first of its kind -- at least in modern memory, they said.
More than 300 people attended the local conference, which took place March 30 and April 1. Including Ambassador Peter Bodde, assistant chief with the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, spoke at the conference. Bodde told the group that the U.S. government is working to safeguard Chaldeans and other minority communities in Iraq. A U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state also attended, telling the group that the Obama administration has requested funds from Congress to promote the safety of Christians in Iraq.
To many of the attendees the words ring hollow as more and more Christians around the world desperately call for support. The peaceful Christians refuse to form a military or take up arms, the leaders say it is not their way. However, some felt it may be necessary that a Christian Arab nation be formed. While others fear that such a move would only polarize the region and edge the world closer to a world war of religions.
Christians of antiquity have been systematically attacked throughout Africa and Middle East. Catholics, Coptics, and Protestants alike have undergone aberrant treatment, torture, and murder. In Iraq, millions have fled into refugee camps and nearby countries forced to live in squalor and oppression. The unrest in Egypt continues to force thousands of Coptics to hide in fear as Islamic members of the Muslim Brotherhood have turned their attention to attacking their churches and church leaders. In Pakistan assassinations of government officials courageously willing to question the need for just and humane treatment of Christians have been ignored.
World organizations remain limp and uninterested in safeguarding the native minorities. Moderate Muslim leaders refuse to comment or assist in any organized or significant protection of the indigenous groups. “What we see now is beginning of the end for Christians in the Middle East and Africa,” says Abid Maloof, an Egyptian Coptic living in San Diego, California. “We know what is happening. Muslims know what is happening. The world knows what is happening. We are too weak to do anything. Muslims by their silence support what is happening. The world does not care. The World will pay for their ignorance, just like they failed to see Germany build its army and unify its people. The radical Muslims of the world are building their army.
Chaldeans, the Christians of Iraq have been struggling to find support. Most organizations and world leaders are afraid to assist. They fear that Muslims will misinterpret the humane assistance as evidence of Christian alignment Maloof said.
Chaldean attorney Steven Yonan, a lead organizer of the event from San Diego said that something has to be done to help the desperate situation that Chaldeans face in their ancestral homeland. “Today the number of Chaldeans living outside Iraq outnumber those living inside Iraq,” Yonan said.
Participants said the three-day conference held at St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral underscored the horrible conditions Christians have to endure worldwide. The participants voted to create the Chaldean International Congress that will represent Chaldean interests and lobby the World government worldwide.
Noori Barka, who runs a biotech company in Spring Valley, said it will allow his people to present a united front as they deal with refugee settlement issues and the ongoing tumult in Iraq. Barka said many have fled Iraq for Syria, Jordan and other Middle Eastern countries. Most of them end up in the United States, Europe and Australia.
Once a thriving minority in the capital of Baghdad, where they were part of the merchant class, Chaldeans and other Iraqi Christians were persecuted during the rule of President Saddam Hussein. Today, they’re targeted by terrorists in the Muslim-dominated nation.
A band of militants last fall shot and killed at least 58 people, including two priests, at a Baghdad church that is well known among many Chaldeans in the El Cajon area.
The massacre prompted calls on the Iraqi government to crack down on anti-Christian violence. Barka said the new congress would press the issue with Baghdad authorities.
Iraq’s Chaldean community goes back centuries. As of two decades ago, an estimated 1.8 million Chaldeans lived in that country. That number has dropped to less than 500,000.
The group also celebrated the Chaldean New Year. Under their calendar, it’s the year 7311.