Iraqi Christians

By James Gordon from Los Angeles, California, USA (Iraqi refugee children, Damascus, Syria) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Iraqi Christians can’t seem to find peace, even in Christian-majority America.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just Muslims who are immigrating to America, but persecuted Christians as well. Christians from Iraq have double the problems due to their faith. Fleeing from a country that was out to wipe them out, they now find themselves in a nation that discriminates against them due to their similarity to the Iraqi Muslims. With similar sounding names, ethnicity and cultural background, Christians from Iraq have to face a lot of odds if they must find a life that is peaceful and free from troubles.

This group of Christians trace themselves to the ancient Babylonians. The community identifies itself as 'Chaldeans', rather than as Iraqi. Besides, rather than speaking Arabic like their fellow Iraqis do, the Chaldeans speak a form of modern day Aramaic. The community is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, under the Eastern Rite headed by the Patriarch of Babylon. The Chaldeans are proud of a rich and ancient heritage, boosted by the fact that they speak the same tongue as was spoken by Jesus himself.

The Chaldeans have traditionally been farmers and shepherds, dwelling in mountainous regions from much before the times of Christ. However, the rise of fanaticism in Iraq, in the name of ISIS, has driven these Christians to the point of despair. A large number are now steadily making their way into America, where they are facing the ripples of Islamophobic crimes due to the poor knowledge people have about who they are and how they differ from Iraqi Muslims.

Chaldeans have been coming to America for a very long time, however. Religious freedom has always been a major issue the Chaldeans have faced. With this as the key factor behind their immigration to the U.S., now almost 200,000 Chaldeans are living in various states. Detroit has the largest population with 120,000 Chaldean residents, while El Cajon, near San Diego, CA, also has a large Chaldean population. The brutal persecution in Iraq is now causing a steady rise in these figures.

However, the quest to find a peaceful home is far from over for these people, whose presence has been felt in America since the 1920s. The group has been the victim of racial discrimination a number of times. Targeted attacks on Muslims have caused fear not only among Muslims, but also among the Chaldeans as well because many of them have been believed to be Muslims.

In general Chaldeans have mixed feelings about being in America. Despite the racial discrimination, the community admits that they are facing far better treatment and are having more freedom than they had back at home.

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