Last edited on 11/10/2010 at 06:57 AM (UTC3 Assyria)
Metro Detroiters rally for Iraqi Christians
Baghdad attack inspires calls for U.S. intervention
by Cecil Angel, Free Press Staff Writer, Detroit Free Press. November 8, 2010.
DETROIT, Michigan — More than 1,000 demonstrators sang, prayed and waved signs and American flags at a rally Monday outside the McNamara Federal Building in downtown Detroit that was organized to draw attention to the persecution of Christians in Iraq.
The demonstrators said the U.S. and Iraqi governments have not done enough to keep Iraq's Christians safe from Muslim extremists.
Metro Detroit's Chaldean and Assyrian communities were stunned by the Oct. 31 attack during a church service at the Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Church in Baghdad, Iraq, that left 58 people dead.
Since 2003, when the U.S.-led invasion into Iraq toppled President Saddam Hussein, Muslim extremists' attacks on Iraq's Christians have increased.
Metro Detroit Chaldeans and Assyrians say they have appealed to the U.S. State Department over the past few years to do more to protect religious minorities in Iraq.
"We hear a lot of people talking, but nothing ever gets done," said Andre Anton of Farmington Hills, one of the rally organizers. "Religious and ethnic minorities are not a priority."
Anton said that in three weeks, a similar rally will be held in Washington, D.C., to get the attention of the nation's lawmakers.
At a news conference at the St. Toma Syriac Catholic Church in Farmington Hills before the rally, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters called the church killings "despicable" actions. The Bloomfield Township Democrat said the U.S. government has to develop a comprehensive policy that will protect Christians in Iraq.
"We have to step up and step up and be firm," he said.
Peters said it's especially important to do something now that U.S. forces in Iraq are being drawn down.
"We have to be sure those religious minorities that live in Iraq have the protection they need," he said.
Representatives from U.S. Sen. Carl Levin's office and U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, a Harrison Township Republican, read letters at the news conference expressing support for action that will ensure the safety of Iraq's Christians. Miller called for the U.S. to help the Iraqi government better train its security forces to prevent future tragedies.
Robert Cohen, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said terrorist attacks "are obscene when they take place in a house of worship -- any house of worship."
In a prayer before the crowd, retired Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton said, "We pray you, God, watch over the people of Iraq."
Chaldean communities in Detroit, Chicago rally, call for more protection of Christians in Iraq
by Jeff Karoub, Associated Press. November 8, 2010 at 4:26 p.m. CST.
DETROIT, Michigan (AP) — Hundreds of protesters clad in black rallied and marched Monday to demand peace and security for Christians in Iraq after dozens were killed in a recent attack on a Baghdad church.
The rally in Detroit coincided with one in Chicago, where hundreds marched through downtown to a plaza in front of the Dirksen Federal Building. Organizers also said rallies were planned in London and Paris.
Chanting "Wake up America," ''Stop the genocide" and "We demand peace," the protesters gathered in front of a federal office building in downtown Detroit. The rally was organized by members of Michigan's Chaldean community and other Christians who trace their heritage to the Biblical lands of what is now Iraq.
"The message is this: This massacre is not a one-time event — it's part of a systematic effort to bring about a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Iraq's indigenous Christians," said Wisam Naoum, a rally organizer.
Chaldeans are Iraqi Catholics. Since 2007, thousands of Iraqi Christians have come to the Detroit area, which has one of the nation's largest communities of people with roots in the Middle East.
Several hundred demonstrators filled the plaza in front of the building and at one point spilled out onto the street. They held signs with messages such as "66 Churches Bombed in Iraq Since '03" and "US Gov't You Have Made the World Miss Saddam Shame on You."
Others held photographs of two priests who were killed in the Oct. 31 attack on Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad. As a man read aloud the names of the dead, protesters wearing white T-shirts spattered with red lay down on the ground of the plaza.
The siege that left 58 dead was the worst attack by Islamic militants on the country's Christian minority since the 2003-U.S. led invasion.
"There are some solutions we're asking for, demands we have to make," said Joe Kassab, executive director of the Chaldean Federation of America.
Those include calling on the U.S. and Iraqi governments as well as the international community to provide better protection for Iraq's Christians. Kassab said they also seek a more secular, less sectarian Iraqi constitution that recognizes "other people sharing the land."
"Christians of the world — mainly Christians of America — they don't know there are Biblical Christians in Iraq," said Kassab, who is also a board member of the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America.
"They should be helping them, they should be saving them."
The Rev. Selwan Taponi, who came to the Detroit rally from St. Ephrem Syriac Catholic Church in Jacksonville, Fla., said he served the Baghdad church for nearly four years in the 1990s. He said it was important to speak at the rally and "raise my voice as much as I can."
"It's the least I can do for my people over there," he said. "Condemning is a very weak word — we need to do something. We need to raise our voice high enough to reach the government of this country."