Priest helps other Chaldeans settle in Michigan

The gentle brown eyes of the Rev. Basel Yaldo turn sad when he recalls the five terrorists who beat and kidnapped him for three days in Iraq.

The 40-year-old priest feared he’d become yet another clergyman killed by Islamic extremists for being a Catholic.

To his surprise, he was released but not without a warning that Chaldeans faced death if they stayed in Iraq.

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Determined to make a better life for Chaldean Americans, Yaldo heeded the advice of his church’s patriarch and fled to Shelby Township, where he holds mass in Arabic and English at St. George Chaldean Catholic Church, which opened in 2005.

“God gave me a new life,” Yaldo said. “As a religious person, my faith got stronger.”

Now Yaldo faces another challenge: As his congregation struggles during the economic downturn, donations aren’t enough to help the growing Chaldean population with services, including financial help.

He hopes the federal government offers more money to fund refugee programs, especially since much of the recent violence against Christians came during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

“We left Iraq because of the dangers,” he said. “We came here for peace, but it’s a tough transition.”