Calif. Chaldeans fight Islamist recruiting

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 Chaldeans march on Main Street, El Cajon in August (photo by Susan Murphy, KPBS)

Chaldeans march on Main Street, El Cajon in August (photo by Susan Murphy, KPBS)

The following comes from a Nov. 15 story in the Sacramento Bee.

….An estimated 70,000 Iraqis, mostly Chaldean Catholics, live in the San Diego region, the second-largest Iraqi population in the nation, after Detroit. The U.S. government has resettled several thousand Iraqis in San Diego since 2007. Many have settled about 15 miles east of the city in El Cajon, home to St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral.

Chaldeans first settled in ancient Mesopotamia, the country now called Iraq, in the first and second centuries. They still speak Aramaic, the language believed to have been spoken by Jesus. There are an estimated 600,000 Chaldean Catholics worldwide – a number that has dwindled considerably in the last decade since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of attacks by groups like Islamic State, said Rico Monge, an assistant professor of comparative theology at the University of San Diego.

The tumult of the last decade makes estimates on the current number of Chaldeans in Iraq difficult, but “the fear is Christianity in Iraq will cease to exist,” Monge said.

Persecution of Chaldean Christians in Iraq is not new, but today’s violence is approaching genocide, said Chaldean Catholic Bishop Sarhad Yawsip Jammo, whose diocese covers the nation’s western region. He is based in San Diego.

….The bishop and Mark Arabo, a 31-year-old Chaldean American activist in San Diego, delivered to administration officials the names of about 70,000 family members still in Iraq, Turkey or Lebanon, and the names of their sponsors.

“The number one concern is how can we save them? How can we get them over here?” Arabo said.

….Ben Kalasho, who came to San Diego from his native Iraq when he was 8 years old, disagrees with legislative efforts to bring Iraqi Chaldeans to America. Poverty awaits many war refugees in the U.S., he said. Kalasho believes the ultimate goal should be to allow Chaldeans to stay in Iraq by creating a safe haven. Otherwise, an ancient culture and its history will die, he said.

“(Islamic State) wins,” Kalasho said. “That’s the problem.”

After reports that a former San Diego man died in Syria while fighting for Islamic State, Kalasho wanted to help stop the terrorists’ online recruiting efforts in the U.S. Kalasho and volunteers began monitoring sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for clues, such as a Facebook profile promoting Islamic State’s black flag. Then through email blasts and social media, the volunteers alert people in their network about what they have found. The purpose is to get the accounts, which appear to be Islamic State recruitment tools, shut down.

“We have … thousands of people we can reach in a few seconds,” Kalasho said.

Kalasho reports discoveries to Facebook and other companies and informs the FBI and local law enforcement of any local online activity.

Some Chaldean Americans, like 21-year-old Allen Theweny, who was born and raised in the U.S., are angry that they may never see the place where their parents grew up – cities now ravaged by war.

Nonetheless, Theweny, whose parents emigrated from Baghdad to El Cajon in 1991, says he does not see people fleeing Iraq as the death of Chaldean heritage and identity.

“Just because something is gone doesn’t mean the culture is gone,” said Theweny, who helped organize a recent peace walk in El Cajon. “America is our new Babylon.”

To read the entire story, click here.



Chaldeans march on Main Street, El Cajon in August (photo by Susan Murphy, KPBS)


  1. CCC: ” 2241 The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
    Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions,
    especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. IMMIGRANTS are OBLIGED to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual HERITAGE of the country that receives them,
    to OBEY its laws
    and to ASSIST in carrying civic burdens. “

    • The USA is not their new Babylon. This is not Iraq or any other foreign Country.
      If they want Babylon first, they need to go back to Iraq.

  2. What IS American culture? Is it native American tribal Indian, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Mexican, Russian, Norwegian, Chinese, East Indian, Japanese, Chilean, Portuguese, Irish and on and on? Is it Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, at least in California. The truth is that we have never really had much of a common American culture. Each state pretty much has its own culture. Louisiana was settled by the French and Africans mostly. Other states by the Germans and the Dutch. Alaska by the Russians. California by the Spanish and Mexicans, but now there are more Asians, East Indians and Muslims of various groups. Just what IS an American? I have asked myself this question all my life. Never have found out an answer. Our food is as varied as our people.

    • Anne T., The traditional American culture is founded in our Constitution, which is unique among the history of the world. This provided a freedom and opened the opportunity for creative pursuits where anyone, no matter how disadvantaged or poor, could turn their lot into something much different and better. Whether, or not you agree with it, the American Culture has influenced the entire world. There is a reason why many of the world’s inventions have originated from our very own culture. Sadly, since our Constitution is now being violated and ignored on many levels, we are loosing our unique culture. Since we are no longer a Judeo-Christian country, our family life is breaking down. By denying our heritage and suggesting that we never had a culture, we are dooming our future generations to the same disadvantage that their parents had before fleeing their failed cultures.

  3. Anne T., American culture is formed primarily due to our political culture: ordered liberty, a democratic republic functioning under a written Constitution, respect for the rule of law and respect for human freedom, although the latter has been historically linked with responsibilities, not the current libertinism and barratry promoted and defended by the lawyers. I would couple that with an overwhelming cultural bias for Christianity (particularly the American variant of Evangelical Christianity throughout the centuries) manifesting itself among the mores and laws of the American people. Add a dose of American exceptionalism– our country was made to be a republic of free citizens– patriotism, common use of American English and voila, the American culture! It’s been one of the most beneficially cultures on Earth, and many of us are ticked off that the Leftists have done much to trash it the past half century.

  4. Anne T. Our nation is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Freedom of practicing religion without the government interfering (unless of course its motives and practices are meant to endanger other citizens) and the brave who protect our God-given liberties and privileges. Our nation is suppose to be a melting pot of peoples of all races, colors, and creeds. It helps when God and love for each other and our nation is in the center of our hearts and our wills. That is what brings us as neighbors and citizens together. All this promotion of diversity the last several years by the liberals in the government, special interest groups, and the liberal mainstream media have actually led to racism and breaking down of neighborhoods. Look what is happening in Ferguson MO. What is worse is the presidiot and the liberal rascist activists that he encourages are trying to disrupt and riot, inflicting all sorts of hurt, suffering, and mayhem to gain their political advantage. Advantage of what? More deceiving, racism, following Saul Alinsky’s little book of rules to turn our nation into a socialist or communist form of government?

    Pray to Blessed Mother for the salvation of our country and its citizens, and restoration of its republic and democratic form of government. We need to do this contrary to what some bishops have said that there are good things about communism as publicized by the media lately, that is untrue.

  5. OBTW, Our Chaldean Catholic brothers and sisters from Iraq are no threat to our national security and I welcome them seeking refuge in this country as I do believe they don’t want to mooch off the taxpayers of our nation; however my feelings are opposite toward the muslims as their religion, which they profess to, is a proven danger to the entire world, it is pagan and backed by the evil one. Some muslims have no choice, join them or die! Pray for these people that they will be converted to christianity and assimilate into whatever country they take refuge to, unlike the muslims that have infiltrated many European nations, soon outnumber the natives, and will eventually take over their european nations and turn them into Islamic states. Just watch it will happen in a generation or two and some european nations like Germany and the Czech Republic have recognized the threat within their own borders and are taking actions to counter the muslims. Pray that the rest of the european nations and our nation wises up before it is to late! Our Lady stands on top of the serpent and the crescent moon which symbolizes Islam!

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

      By the Grace of God and His Mother, I annually attend a Miles Cristi Retreat, and there are always Chaldean Catholics there as well. All of them are Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, etc etc. and they got their professions through much difficulty while still in Iraq!

      Bruce, you are 100% correct! d They don’t mooch, they contribute!

      May God have mercy on an amoral Amerika and His Church!
      Viva Cristo Rey!
      Yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher, Founding Director
      Concerned Roman Catholics of America, Inc

  6. Isis threatens to invade Rome and fly their flag over the Vatican.

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