After War, Chaldean Catholics Face Moral Risks in United States

Iraq’s Chaldean Catholics fleeing physical danger in their homeland often find themselves unprepared for the moral threats awaiting them in the United States, said the head of Chaldean Catholics in the western United States. Because of a lack of respect for the unborn in the United States, along with different understandings of marriage and a general disregard for Christian values, Chaldean families often find themselves in a world they are not accustomed to, said Bishop Sarhad Y. Jammo, of San Diego, of the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle. Chaldean Catholics are the largest Eastern-rite community in the United States. Their numbers are growing because of a large and steady stream of refugees since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“This is the irony; that is the dilemma,” Bishop Jammo said. They escape from gunfire in Iraq and go to the United States to find physical security, “but then they face moral attack,” he said. The bishop spoke from Rome on May 17 during an ad limina visit to the Vatican with other heads of Eastern Catholic dioceses in the United States.

Advertisement

Chaldean Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim, who heads the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit, the diocese for Chaldean Catholics in the Eastern United States, said the biggest challenge in his diocese is how to help families who have been unable to go to church for years. Many of the refugees spent five to 10 years in a transit country such as Lebanon, Jordan or Syria before they found a home in the United States. The bishops’ aim is to make them feel at home “after those years of suffering” and to help them become acclimated to their new surroundings and reignite their faith.

Many refugees have “become confused” during their hiatus abroad, either losing their faith because they had little to no access to a priest and pastoral care or because they found solace in a Protestant community, he said.

“However, when they arrive in the States, we get them back,” he said, when they discover the large, vibrant Chaldean Catholic community. “They want to be with their own citizens, their own people, family and friends” and hear their own language. Bishop Ibrahim estimates there are more than 180,000 Chaldean Catholics in his eparchy alone.

For both bishops, funding new parishes and pastoral programs for their growing number of parishioners is an enormous challenge. Despite generous help from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Jammo said the economic investment needed to fund Bible study programs, youth groups, catechisms and provide for seminarians, priests, nuns and teachers is “overwhelming.” Many Chaldeans arrive in the United States with appropriate skills and education and a desire to work, but there are no jobs, he said. Hence, he added, many are not only unable to support the parish and its work; they need financial and social assistance from the church.

“I am racing against time because I don’t want to lose even one soul,” he said.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Chilean clerical sex abuse survivors Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo in Rome, May 2. The three met Pope Francis individually at the Vatican April 27-29. The Vatican announced on May 22 that a second group of abuse victims will visit the pope in June (CNS photo/Paul Haring).
The encounters will take place from June 1-3 at Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse where Francis lives.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 22, 2018
Pope Francis talks with Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, as they arrive for a meeting in the synod hall at the Vatican in this Feb. 13, 2015, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 
Righteous call-outs should be patterned after Cardinal O’Malley’s rebuke of Pope Francis on sex abuse.
Simcha FisherMay 22, 2018
In May, my cousin Christina and her husband Tyler were murdered in their home.
John J. ConleyMay 22, 2018
Follow Father Arturo Sosa's first visit to the Jesuits in Canada!
America StaffMay 22, 2018