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Detroit's Chaldean community fears for Middle East Christians

Iraqi Christians mourn following a 2010 attack on a Baghdad church that killed dozens
AP Photo
Iraqi Christians mourn following a 2010 attack on a Baghdad church that killed dozens

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Arab Spring revolutions have meant a year of anxiety for Metro Detroit’s Arab Christian community.

Most members of that community are Chaldean, mostly Iraqi Catholics. Southeast Michigan is home to the largest Chaldean population outside Iraq.

Martin Manna, President of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, said more than half of all Iraqi Christians have fled the country since the US invasion, and the Chaldean community has offered support for the refugees. 10-15,000 ended up in Michigan.

“Only a fraction have been allowed to come to the United States, which has also created a situation where community members have had to do whatever they can to welcome the refugees that have come to Metro Detroit,” said Manna.

Manna said the Chamber’s non-profit arm is “doing what it can” to help the Chaldean refugees assimilate, but they’ve been “overwhelmed with need.”

When the Chamber’s non-profit arm set up a new office in Sterling Heights last year, they expected to serve about 400 people. They ended up serving about 8000.

In the meantime, Manna said Chaldean Americans are struggling to keep the pressure on the U.S. government to press for minority group rights in Iraq, and find long-term political solutions for Christians who remain in the Middle East.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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