We are not anti-Chaldean

  • Written by:

Bishop Francis Kalabat
When The Arab American News opposed the invasion of Iraq, some community members accused us of being anti-Shi’a and pro-Saddam. About a decade later, this charge resurfaced when we called for rethinking the Ashura procession. Meanwhile, others claim we are a Shi’a paper for supporting the resistance in Lebanon, although we equally supported the resistance in Palestine. Zionist groups have called us anti-Semitic for advocating for Palestinian rights.

When we condemned the bloodshed and the spread of jihadi extremism in Syria, some readers said we are anti-Sunni, although we simultaneously spoke against the violence in Iraq. When a local Shi’a imam made a divisive statement against inter-sectarian marriages, we denounced him. Again, we were called anti-Shi’a.

The latest of these false assertions is that we are anti-Chaldean.

There is a rumor going around in the Chaldean community that we insulted both Pope Francis and Chaldean Bishop Francis Kalabat. In protest, the newspaper’s distributor was discouraged from dropping off the paper in two locations. The paper has hundreds of stands throughout Metro Detroit.

These allegations could not be further from the truth.

We have continuously praised the pope for his courageous stances on social justice. The claim that we attacked him is fictitious and being perpetuated by wannabe leaders who thrive on divisions.

As for Kalabat, the newspaper did not disrespect, or even criticize, the bishop. In a story published Jan. 14, we simply reported on his testimony to Congress, where he said Muslim refugees should be resettled in Arab countries and displaced Christians, who do not pose a security threat, should be brought to the West. Other local outlets, including the Detroit News, have also reported on the matter.

It has become a recurring issue in our community that folks get angry without questioning what they are being told. Reading and comprehension are essential.

A man who read the Jan. 14 story called The Arab American News offices last week to complain that we referred to the bishop by his last name throughout the article. We explained to him that the paper’s style dictates that titles are only used on a first reference. Whether one is an imam, priest, doctor, president or king. Our standard is to call people by their last name after introducing them by their official capacity.

The caller understood and thanked us for the explanation. And that is the way to do things. Baseless accusations are destructive. With dialogue, we can find common ground.

The notion that we are anti-Chaldean or anti-Christian is ludicrous. Since its inception, this newspaper has been committed to the secular principles of pan-Arabism. We have written extensively about the plight of Middle Eastern Christians, whom we consider our people. The rise of religious extremism has brought the region to the verge of total destruction. We have condemned sectarianism in all forms. The struggle of the Arab world’s religious minorities is ours as well.

We are not anti anything; we are pro reporting the news. The newspaper does have opinions that appear in our editorial section— labeled “in our opinion.” Our views are based on intellectual convictions, not religion. But we remain open to all opinions.

Bottom line, pleasing all people is an impossible task.

There is an old tale of a man and his son, traveling with a mule. They went through a town, with the son riding the animal and the father walking. People accused the son of being heartless for resting at the expense of his dad. After the criticism, the son walked as his father rode. The elderly man was then slammed for being a selfish parent. They both tried riding the mule, but the townspeople accused them of animal abuse. They both ended up walking alongside the animal, but that did not spare them criticism. People said they were foolish for not putting their mule to use.

We know that we cannot satisfy everybody, but we will continue to strive for fairness in our quest for the truth.