Chaldean Catholic communities flourish in the American southwest

California has grown into a major hub for Christians fleeing Iraq
San Diego Chaldeans and community members march on Main Street in El Cajon at a rally to show support for Iraqi Christians, Aug. 19, 2014. (photo fromAugust 2014 KPBS article/Susan Murphy)

San Diego Chaldeans and community members march on Main Street in El Cajon at a rally to show support for Iraqi Christians, Aug. 19, 2014. (photo fromAugust 2014 KPBS article/Susan Murphy)

The following comes from a CNEWA article by Joyce Coronel:

Zinah Marzana’s blue-green eyes fill with tears as she recalls the moment her life changed forever. It was December, and she was holding her infant son as her husband, Zergo, drove along the road outside Tel Kaif in northern Iraq’s Nineveh Plain. Her brother sat in the front seat beside her husband. Somehow, they’d lost their way.

“My husband asked for directions from another driver,” Ms. Marzana says. At that point, the family discovered the men in the other car were armed. “They asked where we came from and if we were Christian. We told them yes. My husband — he stepped on the gas to try to get away.”

But it was too late. The other car sped after them. Bullets ripped through the air, striking and killing her husband. Ms. Marzana was also badly injured by a bullet that lodged in her spine. Paralyzed for six months, she was unable to care for her son, Fadi. Her voice breaks as she describes the helplessness she felt.

Chaldean Catholics Zinah Marzana and her mother, Victoria, live in Gilbert, Arizona. (photo: Nancy Wiechec)

Chaldean Catholics Zinah Marzana and her mother, Victoria, live in Gilbert, Arizona. (photo: Nancy Wiechec)

“I was nursing my son at the time and I heard him crying. I heard some ladies at the hospital asking, ‘Who will feed him?’”

It was an agonizing two years before the soft-spoken, petite woman could walk normally. At that time, in 2009, she and her family decided to leave Iraq.

“I couldn’t stay there — it was too hard,” Ms. Marzana says quietly.

Her younger sisters nod, relieved to be far from a place where mortal danger is an everyday fact of life. Vian, 19, sums up their feelings: “Our religion — it means everything to us. We were so scared there.”

Before finding their way to Arizona, Ms. Marzana and her family first settled in El Cajon, California, home to some 60,000 Chaldean Catholics, most of whom hail from Iraq.

For decades, Chaldeans have been building communities in the southwestern region of the United States. Now, as ISIS drives Christians from their homes in Iraq, these communities have grown into a base of support and hope across the globe.

Newly ordained, the Rev. David Stephan receives a kiss from his aunt during a reception at St. Peter Chaldean Cathedral in El Cajon. A Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena, she traveled from Iraq to be with the family for his ordination. (photograph by Nancy Wiechec)

Newly ordained, the Rev. David Stephan receives a kiss from his aunt during a reception at St. Peter Chaldean Cathedral in El Cajon. A Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena, she traveled from Iraq to be with the family for his ordination. (photograph by Nancy Wiechec)

Over the years, El Cajon, which lies east of San Diego, has taken on the shape of its growing community of Iraqi Christians. Signs in many of the city’s shops and restaurants are in Chaldean or Arabic, leading some to dub East Main Street, “Little Baghdad.” A stroll through the grounds of St. Peter Chaldean Cathedral is more reminiscent of the ancient city of Babylon, with sculptured lions of Ishtar guarding the entrance to the hall.

From this city, Bishop Sarhad Jammo, a native of Baghdad, leads the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle, a jurisdiction spanning 19 states in the west of the country. Second only to Michigan — the cradle of the nation’s other Chaldean eparchy — California has grown into a major Chaldean hub, with ten parishes and two missions. El Cajon alone also boasts two convents, a monastery and a seminary alongside a catechetical program serving 1,000 children, who learn to pray and celebrate the Qurbana, the eucharistic liturgy of the Chaldean Church, in a modern form of the Aramaic language.

El Cajon’s Mar Abba the Great Seminary — the only Chaldean seminary outside of Iraq — reflects the vibrancy of the Chaldean community in the western United States. In 2015, Bishop Sarhad ordained four priests; three were born in the United States, and a fourth arrived with his parents when he was 3.

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  1. Our so called “Moslem brothers” are killing off these poor Christians, and the world hardly notices it. They are forbidden to be classified as refugees, so they cannot come to the United States. Something is rotten, and I think it is us because we allow the press and the liberal establishment to push Catholics around. As a result, we Catholics are treated as fourth class citizens.

    • Timothy Scheidler says:

      There are also many Muslims who are working to protect and defend our Christian brothers and sisters, many of whom risk their lives to do so.

  2. The Vatican recently released a beautiful video featuring Pope Francis addressing dialogue and prayer among the world religions. Check it out on YouTube!

  3. The Chaldeans and the Assyrian Christians are the ones we should be bringing in the the USA instead of hundreds of thousands of Syrian “Muslims”like Hussein Obama is doing. Look at what happened on New Year’s Eve in the German cities of Cologne, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Berlin, Lubeck and many other cities, Muslims groping and raping German women and the police were powerless. The police chief of Cologne Wolfgang Albers received a phone call asking that he step down. Danke Angela Merkel for destroying your own country by letting in 1,100,000 MUSLIMS!!!

  4. Now we hear that the German government tried for THREE DAY’S to cover up the raping of its own women, this is totally disgusting and once again protecting ISLAM again. The female mayor of Cologne Henriette Reker is blaming the German women for the assaults, as Pamela Geller has said this is Sharia in place in Western Europe. When will the German people rise up and take back Germany? The PEGIDA movement from Dresden has been trying to wake the German people up to what is in-store for them. And by the way 18 of the 31 Arab men arrested in Colonge were your friendly Syrian refugees!!! The cover ups will not continue Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Brigette Gabriel, Walid Shoebat, Geert Wilders and others will tell the true story coming out…

  5. During the PEGIDA march in Colonge on Saturday the German police were out in force with riot gear and water cannons using it on their own people, on New Years Eve when the Muslims were raping German girls the police were nowhere to be found. Amazing how the left who says they are for the rights of women will protest against the very people in this case the PEGIDA movement calling for the protection of German women. But the LEFT is in a bond with Islam it goes hand and hand just like the gays, feminists, environmentalists, animal rights activists yet these people would be the first to die under SHARIA LAW!!

  6. Ah yes, to dialogue with Muslims how wonderful of the Pope while Christians are being decimated in the Middle East. This Pope still does not understand there is but ONE TRUE religion and that is the Roman Catholic Church!!! Islam will destroy Western Civilization it has been trying since its inception in the 7th century founded by the pedophile and killer Muhammed.

  7. Michael McDermott says:

    Rick Santorum addresses the issue of ‘Resettlement of Refugees’ – versus the need for maintenance of a Christian Presence in the Holy Land.
    SEE
    Rick Santorum Interview with EWTN, Dec 21-22, 2015

    In this interview with Eternal Word Television Network, Rick Santorum discusses Lindsey Graham’s departure from the GOP race, supporting Christians and refugees in the Middle East, and how he, as president, would fight back against Supreme Court decisions that are unconstitutional.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2ibkv_4yEA&feature=share

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