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Iraqi refugees get help in adapting to U.S. life

ICC Note

Violence against Iraqi Christians forced thousands of them of them to flee their country. Some of the Christian refugees have settled in the United States . This article describes how Christians in the United States are helping their Iraqi brothers and sisters.

11/10/2008 Iraq ( didn’t take long for parishioners at St. Matthew Church in Ceres to launch a plan to help a wave of Iraqi refugees who began settling in Stanislaus County last summer.

Their church is a natural magnet for Iraqi Christians because many of its members are Iraqi immigrants themselves.

Esther Warda, one of the nonprofit’s leaders, spoke with The Bee last week about the new group. Here are excerpts from that conversation. The full audio interview is available with this story at

Q: How do they get to the San Joaquin Valley ?

A: They’re originally from Iraq , and because of the war they had to leave. They left either to Jordan or to Syria or Turkey , and they just wait there until the United Nations gets all their papers together.

They’re coming here as legal immigrants. They all have green cards. They can work. They need jobs.

We need trucks to help delivery of these items. All these stores are calling saying we have all this stuff for you but you need to come get it. We need trucks, just people helping.

Q: Is there a large network of Assyrians and Iraqi Christians here to help them?

A: We are hoping. There are a few of us that are a little more involved. We’d love people even to just come and say “I’ll fill out a piece of paper.” Or “I’ll take the child to school and talk to the teacher.” Anything. Even if people could give us a half-hour a week, we’d be happy.

Q: The refugee stories must be heartbreaking. What are they telling you?

A: A very good friend of mine that I’ve kind of adopted, her husband was kidnapped as they were trying to flee Iraq . They weren’t really planning to leave until her husband got kidnapped. Then they said, “That’s it. We can’t take it anymore.” The Christian people were just tormented. They’ve had a really tough time. They sleep with bullets and bombs going off over their heads.

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