Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

U.S. Iraqi Christians seek help

By Allison Hoffman

(For the full story) Expatriate Iraqi Christians living in the United States disagree about how best to help their families in the Middle East , where they live under constant threat of sectarian violence. Community leaders estimate there are more than 200,000 Iraqi Christians living in the U.S. , mainly clustered in Detroit , Chicago , San Diego and Phoenix .

“As a people, we survived the Mongols, the Turks and the Arabs,” said John Michael, a Chicago ophthalmologist whose cousins recently left for Syria . “We don‘t want this violence now to be the death knell of this ancient culture.”

Church bombings and other sectarian attacks have spiked since Pope Benedict XVI sparked a wave of anti-Christian anger with statements he made in September seeming to link the prophet Muhammad‘s teachings to violence. In October, a priest in the northern city of Mosul was kidnapped by a group demanding that he retract the pope‘s statements. He was eventually found beheaded.

Last week, a refugee advocacy group in Washington said the outflow of people from Iraq is the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world. According to the United Nations , more than a million Iraqis have fled since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, with about 3,000 people now leaving daily.

“A year ago, the plight of the Christian community was not very well known,” said Michel Gabaudan, a UNHCR representative in Washington . “But that has changed, because we now have very clear evidence that they have been persecuted.”

“The immediate thing it would solve is the bleeding of Iraqi Christians out of the country,” said Michael Youash, the director of the project.

Hazim Dally, whose 58-year-old cousin was gunned down last year on his way to work, is trying to help secure visas for his widow, daughter, and elderly parents to join his family in San Diego . In the meantime, he sends them a few hundred dollars each month, and waits for their calls.

“Every time I talk to them we cry on the phone,” said Dally. “Everything is so uncertain.”