Chaldean immigrants would be asset to metropolitan area

An estimated 12,000 Chaldeans are expected to immigrate to Southeast Michigan this year. We should welcome them with open arms.

The Catholic ethnic group, primarily from Iraq, has had more than its share of persecution thanks to the conflict in that nation.

And the group’s members, who stress that they are not Arabs, have established strong ties to Oakland County and the metro area.

Most Chaldeans attend Eastern Rite Catholic churches. In the region, churches can be found in Troy, West Bloomfield Township, Oak Park, Southfield and Detroit. The St. George Catholic Chaldean Church in Shelby Township calls itself the “largest Chaldean church in the world.”

In 2008, the cultural center on Walnut Lake Road east of Drake Road in West Bloomfield will be completely refurbished.

Chaldean spokesmen note, “We have been Christians since the first century,” and that the group traditionally speaks Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus.

An estimated 60,000 Chaldeans live in Oakland County out of between 120,000 and 150,000 in the metro area. It’s considered the largest concentration of Chaldeans in the United States.

Both the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, formed in 2003, and the Chaldean Federation of America are based in Farmington Hills. The chamber attempts to strengthen Chaldean members’ businesses, increase job opportunities, encourage expansion and promote Chaldean business and culture.

The federation was created to help refugees assimilate into America, yet be able to retain their cultural identity, according to Joseph T. Kassab, executive director of the federation.

The group’s business acumen is unequaled. One published report said Chaldeans own 90 percent of Detroit’s 600 party stores.

Chaldeans came to the Detroit area in the early part of the 20th century after hearing there was work in the auto factories and because a Lebanese Catholic church was here. Their culture originated some 4,000 years ago.

The Chaldean community says it will announce results of a demographic survey in February to have a more complete picture of the group’s presence in the metro area.

Members of the Chaldean Federation recently have been devoting time to assisting the many Iraqis displaced by the Iraq war. But they also say they are willing to accommodate anyone who wishes to learn more about Chaldeans.

They have suffered from oppression. Kassab reports that 90 percent of Chaldeans in Iraq are victims of religious persecution, 40 percent have had a family member kidnapped for ransom or killed and 60 percent have been forced out of their homes. Those wishing to stay in Iraq must pay tribute to Sunni or Shiite militia.

As a group, Chaldeans are a close-knit, hardworking people. They have proved to be industrious entrepreneurs and an asset to any community in which they reside.

They are known to be very family-oriented and take care of their own. They would be model citizens and could provide a needed population shot in the arm for Southeast Michigan and the state.

The immigrants should be a welcome addition to any city in the region.

Good Morning
The best “ties” are not in your closet but involve family and are in your heart.