Dr. Ramsay F. Dass M. D., President of American Middle east Christians Congress
October 12, 2014
On October 12, 2014, the American Middle East Christians Congress (AMECC) hosted its annual charitable, humanitarian, and free medical, legal, and social services forum at Bradley Hall/Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church/Mar Addai Chaldean Catholic Church in Oak Park, Michigan.
This program included free medical services, including examinations, blood testing, and advice from various medical, surgical, and paramedical providers. It also included free legal advice in the fields of immigration, civic, and civil law.
This event also included assistance and advice to newly arrived immigrants to the United States.
The program was open to the American community members at large who are in need of such services. It was sponsored by AMECC with the collaboration of the Michigan Middle East Council of Churches and various American medical, humanitarian, legal, and social services organizations.
The Health, Legal, and Social Services Forum is one of a series of community programs AMECC sponsors to service people from all walks of life, irrespective of their faith, race, national origin, or creed.
AMECC thanks all those who sponsored or attended this program.
For more information regarding this program or other AMECC programs, you may visit www.amecc.us.
Dr. Ramsay F. Dass, MD
President, American Middle East Christians Congress
24601 Coolidge Highway
Oak Park, MI 48237
Office: (248) 546-9100
Cell: (248) 763-6006
You may visit the revised Third Edition of our book, The Middle East Christians: The Untold Story, at www.middleeastchristian.org.
By Inés San Martín
Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad spoke during a July 22 news conference in Erbil, Iraq. (Reuters)
ERBIL, IRAQ—The top Catholic official in Iraq says the current US-led bombing campaign will not dislodge the radical Islamic State, and he is pleading for a stronger response from the international community to ensure Christians can remain in the region.
“Bombing is also killing people, destroying the infrastructure, houses, schools, churches,” said Patriarch Louis Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
“There’s no military solution for the conflict, especially when there are no troops on the ground providing assistance,” he said.
Sako spoke to Crux in Iraq, during a 48-hour pilgrimage led by Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon, France. Together with 100 of his flock, Barbarin traveled to Erbil, capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, to spend the weekend with more than 400,000 people displaced by violence.
Sako, who leads 500,000 faithful, said the only way ISIS could be expelled is through cooperation between the international coalition led by the United States and the Iraqi central government.
He said that for many months “the world turned its back” to what was happening in Iraq and Syria, where almost a half-million Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities currently live in “crowded cabins or out in the open, in small tents that cannot shelter them from the cold winter.”
Sako said the presence of Christians in the Middle East is an unparalleled tool for peaceful coexistence in the Middle East.
“What’s going on in Iraq is a tragedy, and it’s an international moral duty to help those who are paying the price of fundamentalism to stay at home,” he said.
Sako said that without Christians, the region would lose important gifts.
“They’re an elite of very well-educated people that hope to remain in their country,” he said. “If they’re away, fundamentalist groups start running around the area. It’ll be just like it was when we had the Taliban.
For Sako, the French delegation’s visit had two meanings.
“They came to support the displaced families, to remind them that they’re not alone nor isolated,” he said, “and also to show with concrete action that they’re supporting us, praying for us.”
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France, talked to reporters at the Vatican March 4, 2013, the first day the College of Cardinals met to begin the process of electing a new pope. (/Tony Gentile/Reuters)
French cardinal: Christians must condemn Islamist violence
Pope denounces ‘inhuman’ ISIS violence in message to refugees
The celebration of the Immaculate Conception in Erbil, Iraq. (Ines San Martin/Crux staff)
Festival of Lights’ backs Iraqi Christians facing ISIS threat
The patriarch said the Church plays a key role in keeping the spirits of the refugees up. Sako, also president of Iraq’s conference of bishops, said he will not resign himself to seeing his country without Christians.
But to avoid that fate, he said it’s time to have all hands on deck. That includes the return of a dozen priests who fled the country after ISIS took possession of Mosul, Qaraqosh, and other cities with large Christian populations.
“We’re pastors, we should stay,” Sako said. “We have to take care of our flock. We’re consecrated people, we have to make sacrifices, give a good example.”
Nine of those priests have sought refuge in the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter based in the San Diego area.
Those priests have refused the call to go back, even when Sako declared them suspended for not respecting their vow of “obedience to their superiors.”
The Rev. Noel Gorgis told an ABC affiliate in San Diego in late October that returning to Iraq right now as a Catholic priest would be “suicide.” He said that if Francis orders him to do so he would comply, but “I don’t believe he’ll say go kill yourself.”
Sako isn’t backing down, saying simply “they have to come back.”
“They don’t have permission to stay away,” he said. “Five came back. Why are the others refusing to do the same? Seeing a priest leaving his parish, abandoning his flock creates confusion. This is not good.”
“A priest has given himself to the Lord and to service his people. He shouldn’t seek his freedom, his safety,” he said.
Though rare, there are examples of lay Iraqi Christians who have made the choice to come back.
Iraqi brothers Salwan and Nashwan Zaitor, together with their parents and most of their family, fled Iraq in 1993 and resettled in the Netherlands. While there, they founded Babylon Media Group and built a successful company abroad.
Though they were conscious of the rise in Christian persecution, they nonetheless decided to return home, along with their wives and children, in 2005. Today, Babylon Media, based in Erbil, has more than 240 employees.
“We’re probably the only case of Christians who, having left Iraq and built a successful life elsewhere, decided to come back,” Salwan said.
“We want to stay, because this is our place, where we belong,” he said. “God put us here. He wants us to remain here.”
It was because of Babylon’s technical support that thousands of refugees were able to watch a video message from Pope Francis Saturday in which he condemned the “inhuman violence” done to Christians and other religious minorities.
Another Christian leader in Iraq said the world is turning a blind eye to “genocide.”
“Two million Yazidis and Christians are in danger of being killed by ISIS,” said Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil.
Like Sako and the Zaitor brothers, Warda believes the situation here demands a global response.
“What’s happening is in Iraq and Syria, but it’s a global issue,” he said. “We have American citizens, British, Australians, and Dutch that are fighting for ISIS. The world has to get involved.”
Warda told Crux that the international involvement on the fight against the rise of the terrorist group should take a more committed shape, saying that “two or three years of fighting” won’t solve the problem.
When asked what ordinary Christians can do to show support, Warda said prayers are very important. He also encouraged people to send letters to Erbil as messages of hope for those living in the refuge centers.
“We’re receiving some, but many more should come,” he said. “A letter for Christmas or Easter would be a great gift for many.”
For those who can provide material support but don’t know how, Warda said there are many Catholic agencies currently funding projects, such as “Adopt a Refugee Family,” led by the Jesuits, or the different campaigns of “Aid to the Church in Need.”
“If you can help provide a warm night to a family that has lost it all, please, please, do so,” Warda said.
That show of solidarity is making an impact on Iraqis.
Salwan Zaitor, one of the Babylon Media brothers, was moved by the French delegation’s visit.
“We don’t need money as much as we need to know you’re here, with us,” he said, with tears in his eyes. “And that’s what they did: they came and prayed with us. I don’t remember anyone doing that before.”
Courtasy of ankawa.com
Britain’s Prince Charles, right, looks at gifts presented to him with Archbishop Habib of Basra, Iraq, during a visit to meet Iraqi Christians, in London (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool)
The Prince of Wales has said that he is concerned the world may be returning to “the dark ages of public executions”.
Speaking at a Catholic church service in west London, Charles said that we have a “duty of care” towards the families of those who are being executed on camera by terrorist groups in the Middle East.
“We hear much at present about the ‘duty of care’,” he said.
“Then, ladies and gentlemen, I am bound to ask whether there is not a duty of care towards the victims of violence and their families who, like you, are daily distraught by the graphic transmission of violent images of their loved ones.”
The church service at the Holy Family Catholic Church in Acton was for Chaldean Christians, a denomination of the Catholic Church that includes many Iraqis and Syrians.
There are approximately 4,000 Iraqi Chaldean Christians in the UK, and numbers have grown since the conflict with Iran in the 1980s.
More recently Christians in Iraq have come under attack from Isis militants who are trying to create a pure Islamic state in the country, and many have been attacked and forced to leave their homes.
Charles met Chaldean Catholics whose families are suffering because of persecution in Iraq.
Maijida Nissan, 64, has a brother and sister who still live in Iraq. She has lived in the UK for 29 years and has worked as a nanny.
Mrs Nissan thanked the prince for his work to draw attention to the plight of persecuted Christians, to which he responded with: “It’s the least I can do.”
She also said she was praying, and he replied: “We all do.”
Afterwards she said: “I am very happy that he came here, and thanks to God that he came here. God brings him here.”
Mrs Nissan’s brother’s house in Baghdad has been bombed twice, and he now lives with his family in a church in Erbil.
She said that his daughter, Meena, 11, had asked her to speak to the Royal family to tell them about her family’s plight.
In his speech to the congregation Charles said he felt strongly about the plight of persecuted Christians.
“I have been deeply distressed by the horrific scenes of violence and persecution coming out of your beloved Iraq.
“I know that many of those who have been killed or forced to flee are members of your own families.
“The pain and grief must be quite unimaginable as you see them persecuted because of their faith.”
He finished his speech by saying: “You can have no idea how much I feel for those who as I speak are suffering for their faith in such terrible circumstances.”
The prince also met Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of Aid To The Church In Need, who support persecuted Christians worldwide, telling him: “You’re doing a fantastic job.”
Last month Charles released a video message to introduce the charity’s report about religious freedom, and in September he made a donation through the charity to support Iraqi Christians.
Archbishop of Basra Habib Jajou had come from Iraq to meet the prince.
He said: “We have to express our thanksgiving to him for the solidarity he has shown for our situation.”
Courtasy of ankawa.com
Did you know?
Iraq: Nineveh and surrounding Christian areas have been ethnically cleansed. Churches have been destroyed and desecrated.
Old Christian religious manuscripts have been burnt. Hundreds of thousands of Christians and others have become emigrants and immigrants.
The sick, elderly, infants, and pregnant women among them are facing human catastrophe and risk of real genocide.
They need basic water, food, shelter, medicine, and others.
The situation is going from bad to worse. International humanitarian support is lagging behind. Please help us save these innocent people from death.
We hope it is not too late.
-His Beatitude Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon--8/7/2014
Pictures Courtasy of Ankawa.com