Father Paulus Sati says goodbye to Mar Jacob’s parish in Antwerp

There is a time of coming and there is a time of going. Saying goodbye is never easy and certainly not to a person who devotes his life to the people.

Father Paul Sati, brother of the Redemptorists, was ordained a priest in 2010 for the Chaldean Church. For the past six years, he has held his priesthood with heart and soul in Antwerp (Belgium) and in Luxembourg. In September 2018 he heard the news that after 6 years of priesthood in the Chaldean parish of Mar Jacob in Antwerp he was promoted to patriarchal procurator for the Chaldean diocese in Egypt.

This brought mixed feelings with the parishioners and all the Belgian Chaldeans who loved him. On the one hand, joy for his promotion, on the other hand grief because of his departure.

Under his leadership, the Mar Jacob parish has grown into a fantastic parish with excellently trained acolytes, subdeacons, a women’s choir, a rosary group etc.

He is a Chaldean in heart and soul, but first and foremost a person who honours ​​the Christian values ​​and has applied them throughout his life.

For the Chaldean community in Belgium this is a great loss, but for the Chaldean Church he will remain a huge asset.

In the name of the whole Chaldean community in Belgium we want to thank Father Paul Athil Sati from the platform Chaldeans in Belgium and wish him a lot success in his future career.

Chaldean woman travels around the world in the fight against poverty

Where your passion and the needs of the world intersect, lies the path of inner growth. An inspiring spell that drives a young Chaldean woman from Mechelen to help improve the world. The 29 year old Sonja Kareman travels around the world to fight against poverty, a task that suits her perfectly. She derives her energy from her faith and from the gratitude she receives. Below her experiences that she has written down, a story of fraternal sharing.

 

Sonja Kareman

Every little being has dreams, big or small, sometimes realistic and sometimes unrealistic, but still growing. In my big dream as a young girl, there was in the distance a mountain top that shone in the sun, a society that had room for everyone, no matter who you are and what you have. In that big dream I cycled in the direction of my future, with a backpack at hand I set off in this life. The road was long, and not self-evident. Often I had to stop, time and space needed to give all innovations and changes a place. It was a way that I merged with my family and God, who taught me to discover the “true Sonja”. I have built trust in myself through life experiences; friendship with people in need who have come into my life and have gone away but left a deep trail of wisdom and warmth.

 

I studied sociology in function of this dream, which was given groundbreaking form. During this study I followed an intensive animation course and as a 20-year-old girl went abroad for 3 months to volunteer in projects for people in need: Hungary, Spain and France. I resolutely returned home to make that great dream come true. The dedication for children, young people, the elderly, intrigued me and this became the guideline in my life. Gradually I also realized that this is a calling from the Lord that you feel inside to always walk a new path of life. In prayer and solidarity with the Lord, I feel the calling concretely and I know where the Lord wants to lead me. With passion, trust and enthusiasm I always give color to this calling and I go for it. Even if you are young, unmarried and a girl, the fire in you is so agonizing and burning. This calling also came in 2018; a calling that I could not resist … because He led me from Europe to even Africa. In the summer and in the autumn of 2018, I have had the honor to be able to help for several months as a volunteer in Croatia and Africa. Two different projects, two different countries and two different target groups. A grace, an inner growth process and gratitude are just a few fruits that I have been allowed to reap.

 

In Croatia I have been allowed to work for children with a disability. They were intensive weeks of organizing, examining and growing spiritually. All children, small and large, wheelchair-bound or already fluttering, from no sense of insight. It went spontaneously and the children and young people enjoyed it to the fullest. I vividly remember our great activity where the children could perform different activities, they got a sticker on each island that was stuck on their card. In the end they received a medal. It was emotional when one of the children took the ticket with the 5 stickers and the medal to his bedroom; placed the card under his pillow and pulled the duvet cover over it so that nobody would take it. This was the difference for them, this was the feeling that we as volunteers may be there. These children do not ask for the greatest things. The friendship and being physically present is more than enough for them. If they can then keep a memory, it is as if the Santa Claus has visited them.

 

 

After Croatia this mountain peak sparkled towards Africa. Packed and loaded, I left with a big sponsorship budget, enthusiasm and, above all, a lot of motivation towards Tanzania. I have had the opportunity to dedicate myself to the Beyond Child Smile project. The weeks have flown by and it has been a learning experience, both the renovation and the teaching. Upon arrival in Tanzania, I did not know what to expect.

 

The project Beyond Child Smile is committed to improving education in Ilboru, both in terms of quality / content and infrastructure. Since we had taken a large sponsorship budget from Belgium, we were able to achieve a lot in a government school where only the poorest people go. Both the façade and all classrooms were taken care of. It was sanded, plastered, masticated and given a thorough coat of paint. A complete modern and safe kitchen was built and installed. Where previously the kitchen was an old shed and the smoke penetrated into the classrooms, it has now been adapted and built safely so that the smoke goes up a pipe. We also opened the water pipe so that school-age children can drink clean drinking water at school. Electricity was installed. All windows also received solid glassware so that the children are protected against the cold in the winter and against the sand in the summer. The renovation works have paid off. The so many school-age children now have a pleasant environment to learn the wisdom of life.

 

In the afternoon we were called in to teach, in the secondary school, to the children from the neighborhood. Mainly mathematics and English. The classes are divided into 7 classes. There are about 100 children, in poverty. The aim of this additional school is to keep the children out of the street and at the same time support them in their school lessons. Often they come along with homework that they understand well or not, or for extra exercises so that it runs smoothly at school. For this part-time school we also built the sanitary facilities so that the children can go to the toilet in a proper way, as well as buying a projector and loudspeakers to give the lessons more interactive. At the end of the lessons you could organize a lot of play and tinkering with the children, such as ring games, basketball, football, dancing, jumping, etc. This was enriching and groundbreaking. With little or no play material, these children have managed to give me wisdom. The great seeing in the little and the small seeing in the wealth. We made a ball with material that was gathered together. A jump rope was pieced together from a garden hose that we found somewhere on the street.

 

There was dancing and singing, with the necessary African bells and whistles. I was allowed to hand out the sponsored school material on the last day per class, per child. The smiles of the children were enough to realize that this has made them so happy. In both projects the children have taught me the value of unconditional friendship. They taught me to dry the tears of shame (for the sake of our good life) by their smiles, their gratitude. They are a rainbow in which every color of their smile has increasingly heated us every day. They have taught us to let go of things and accept things without too many questions and to believe in every day that comes. They did not look in the future or in the past, they looked at the present, at our presence, and reaped the fruits of every day that we were there.

 

The needs were noticeable in the small things, in small questions and small needs, but which are so important to them. They are so happy with small things and learn to appreciate you. From the little attention, they make a wealth of it. Their humility, their gratitude and their vulnerable face take you back to your inner foundation. They are so valuable. Your commitment to the other is a beautiful initiative where you also commit to your own growth process. They are grateful to you for what you do, but I too am grateful to them for this grace and wisdom of life. This friendship with young and old increases my solidarity and that is what inspires me today and increases my passion. I am joyful when I see the young and the elderly beaming after each project. They are more aware of life but also bring emotional feelings. They soften the roughness of the life with which we are sometimes confronted. So intense, so enriching and so gracious.

 

Of other people I often hear that I am social, a fluent talker, a go-getter and want to help people who are struggling. This is just me through my volunteer work, studies, family and God! I have built a network of friends, thanks to God I have challenged myself and dared to go for my dreams. I am who I am: faithful, chatting and a heart for those in need. I seek happiness in the small things, which will bring me great happiness: coming home to God. One thing I know: thanks to my family, my choice for God and commitment to people in need, I get something I do not deserve: the GRACE of the Lord!

 

In essence we are connected and each deserves a life full of warmth, joy and happiness. I am someone who likes to develop new ideas, to realize this and to encourage people to come to the core of the heart: “to put a smile on a face of someone who is in a” dark tunnel of life “whether through illness or poverty or loneliness “. I enjoy new challenges and flexible projects. Going out together and by burning that light point in the dark. Do you also participate?

 

Chaldeans in Belgium in action to preserve their food culture

For the third time in a row, members of ACOM and Chaldean League Belgium have been able to present their food culture at the Central Square in Mechelen during the car-free Sunday of 16 September 2018. As in previous years, one could  taste the various Mesopotamian cheeses and the traditional bread.

A culture consists of different aspects such as language, traditional dress, folk dance, traditions, heritage, etc. Eating habits are also part of this. That is what these zealous Chaldeans realize all too well and that is why they want to make the difference by protecting and continuing their culture for the next generations of Chaldeans.

And that is a good thing, because what is a culture if one does not know its content anymore and does not experience it anymore? In that case, it remains with a name and the culture is threatened to be lost little by little.

This is not different in the Chaldean community. Today it is only the oldest generation of Chaldeans who still manages to make traditional bread and cheese and unfortunately this is hardly passed on. It is therefore not an easy process and young people show no great interest in this. Lack of time is often a reason, but for such matters there is never time in contemporary society and no attention is paid to it. And yet it is important that the youngest generation learns it and passes it on, because as one says “one only knows what one misses when it is no longer there”.

Chaldean League Belgium and Active Chaldean Organization Mechelen, abbreviated ACOM, are Chaldean organizations that are committed to putting the Chaldean people and its culture on the map in the diverse society in Belgium. Their committed members take the free time needed for this with much love, despite of their busy daily life. They are satisfied with the fact that the culture continues to live for the next generations.

Card Sako: Iraqi Christians, caught between survival and migration

Card Sako: Iraqi Christians, caught between survival and migration
by Louis Raphael Sako*

In a letter the Chaldean primate recalls the sufferings and persecutions of community in the last decade. He calls for future “guarantees” and a “common foundation” based on equal citizenship. The challenge of emigration, can only be defeated by restoring a social and political fabric on which to rebuild life.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Christians and other Iraqi minorities need “guarantees” to survive and a “common foundation” from which to build based on “citizenship, not religion or doctrine”, writes the Chaldean primate, Card Louis Raphael Sako in a message published on the website of the Chaldean patriarchate and sent to AsiaNews for information. The “deterioration” of security in the last 13 years, warns the cardinal, including kidnapping, ransom, homicide, destruction of houses and property has caused a progressive “loss of confidence” among Christians, who have been forced to emigrate.

However, today more than ever it is important to rebuild the social and political fabric and guarantee a future in their country of origin, to which they have provided “very important contributions” in the past from the “economic, social and cultural” point of view. Returning to them, warns Card Sako, the lost “dignity”.

Below the full text of Patriarch Sako’s message. A translation from the original Arabic

In this article I would like to discuss the main reasons why Christians must on one hand remain in their homeland, that is Iraq, or on the other hand to leave it and emigrate. In any case, I want to express my concern about the current and future situation of our country.

First of all, it should be pointed out that Christians are an original people in Iraq, not an immigrant community that has come from another planet. In fact, the roots of Iraqi Christians date back to the first century AD, while their ethnic origins go back thousands of years before, being descendants of Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syriacs and Arabs.

Throughout their long history, Christians have served their country in a very decisive and influential way at all levels, including economic, cultural and social. They firmly believe that Iraq is their land of origin and an integral part of their identity, and that they represent a fundamental part of the different components of society.

Therefore, they refuse to be marginalized as regards their membership of the land and the Iraqi people. And despite all that has happened in Iraq, Christians desire, from the depth of their hearts and for all, peace, stability, true equality, real recognition of citizenship, freedom and dignity.

The reasons that push towards immigration

Iraqi Christians have withstood prolonged social and political pressures, and are treated as an insignificant minority and second class citizens. And of course, this way of treating them hurts. We only need to recall all that Christians suffered during the war between Iran and Iraq, the occupation of Kuwait, the 13 years of embargo, the fall of the regime in 2003, and the failure of successive governments in to lay the foundations for a national state and to consolidate a culture of citizenship and equality.

On the contrary, sectarianism and tribalism triumphed, which are founded on the protection of one groups members only, the spread of a religious preaching based on fundamentalism, which refers to ancient concepts to justify violence, although religion should be based on mercy , acceptance of the other, and a respectful attitude towards everyone.

What’s more, the deterioration of the security situation in the last 13 years, and its consequences such as the series of kidnappings, ransoms, murders, bombing and seizures of homes and properties, has meant that Christians have lost confidence and hope for a better future, and everything that forced them to leave everything and migrate.

But the real shock was the invasion of the Islamic State “Daesh” and its conquest of the city of Mosul and the whole territory of the Nineveh plains in 2014, and the emptying of its Christians (ن). [The symbol: (ن: Nazarenes), placed on the houses and properties of Christians in Mosul and in the Nineveh plains, by Isis has now become the symbol of today’s anti-Christian persecution.

In reality, the Islamic State had given three choices to Christians: conversion to Islam, payment of a tax, of so-called protection (jizya – dhimma), or forced and immediate abandonment of their land, otherwise they would have been killed. And unfortunately, Daesh has erased Christian monuments and symbols in Mosul, both ancient and modern ones.

Immediately after the fall of the regime (by Saddam Hussein), some local political forces began a conflict among themselves to dominate the Christian towns and villages of the Nineveh plains, with the aim of redesigning the demographic map of that area, each of those forces for their own interests.

The military barrier that separates the Christian town of Batnaya (under the control of the Iraqi army and the Shiite militias) from those of Telesqof and Alqosh also Christian (under the control of the ‘Peshmerga’ armed forces of the autonomous region of Kurdistan Iraqi) is the concrete proof of this conflict. This barrier has not been removed even today, despite promises made to remove it from both the Iraqi Kurdistan region authority and the Iraqi government.

International organizations have also encouraged Christians to emigrate, offering them all the support and tools to do so. Equally, the Western mass media have pushed in this direction, reiterating that – within five or ten years – there would be no more Christians in Iraq.

All these factors have contributed in bringing Christians to a point where they feel that their dignity is attacked, their trust is lost, their millennial existence is threatened. And this is also true of their membership, history, identity, faith, and language. Allow me to give a concrete example concerning the university of Hamdaniya (Qaraqosh, which is a Christian city on the Nineveh plains). An academic who does not belong to this city has been appointed as president. While we know that the Church has helped the university to continue after the invasion of Daesh in that area, and even today the students belonging to it use the halls and buildings of the Church as university classrooms. And there are other unpleasant and sad examples like this.

Christians were about 4 or 5% of the Iraqi population. They were about a million and a half before the fall of the regime [by Saddam Hussein], and they were a national, cultural, social and economic elite.

But since the beginning of 2003 about 1220 Christians have been killed in various incidents of violence throughout Iraq, including 700 people, including religious, killed for their Christian affiliation. And 23,000 Christian properties were seized, 58 churches were blown up. Let it be clear that none of these statistics include what the Islamic State did. Daesh, in reality, burned, desecrated, etc. all the churches in Mosul and in the towns and villages of the Nineveh plains. And as a consequence of all this, one million Christians, out of a million and a half, left Iraq.

The factors that encourage them to stay

Iraqi Christians and other minorities need reassurance to stay in their land, continue their millennial presence, and continue their coexistence with other members of society. They want the government to look at them with the same eyes with which they look at other groups, making them feel that they are citizens of equal dignity, both in rights and duties. Because citizenship, as we know, is not based on religion and doctrine, but on common foundations.

Christians want quick and clear solutions for some issues, such as: respect for their identity, diversity, the areas historically belonging to them (against attempts at demographic and ethnic change), their protection from any threat, attack, or from any law that oppresses them. Moreover, there is a great need to rebuild trust between Christians and their neighbors in the areas freed by Daesh, through concrete procedures such as: punishment of criminals, compensation for damages in favor of victims, restitution of property to rightful owners, the removal of mines from their fields, the reconstruction of their homes, and the improvement in essential services, so that they can return to their homes.

The current situation requires a precise strategy to establish social justice and equal opportunities. And it is very important to work on discernment, teaching, culture education of the acceptance of the other, and mutual respect among people belonging to different religions. All this must be done in homes, in places of worship, in schools, on books and school programs, and in the formation of teachers. Finally, we must condemn any insult or aggression against any citizen, especially if caused by his religious, doctrinal, ethnic, or sexual affiliation.

* Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad and president of the Iraqi Episcopal Conference

Final Statement of the 2018 Chaldean Synod

Final Statement of the 2018 Chaldean Synod

In response to His Beatitude (H. B.) Patriarch Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako’s invitation, the Synod of the Chaldean Church held its’ annual meeting, 7-13 August 2018, at the Patriarchate Headquarters in Baghdad. Bishops of different dioceses participated, including Australia, America, Canada, Europe, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, bearing in mind concerns and hope of their people, particularly the current situation in Iraq and the region as well as the challenges facing them in diaspora. Synod Bishops commenced the opening session by thanking God for: the return of a good number of the Internally Displaced People (DPIs) to their towns in Nineveh Plain; the relative improvement of security in Iraq; and the pastoral achievements in the dioceses

In conclusion, they issued the following statement:

First: Ecclesiastical Affairs

Synod participants reviewed the situation of their dioceses inside and outside Iraq; chose bishops for the vacancies; discussed their needs, especially the urgent need for well-prepared priests, nuns and monks, who will keep the “Eastern Identity”, culture and traditions of each country; focused on the suffering of Christians and their fellow citizens in Iraq, due to ISIS occupation of Mosul and the towns of Nineveh Plain and the displacement of its’ residents, in addition to the decline in the political, economic and social status quo in Iraq.

On the other hand, Synod Fathers commended the efforts made by the Churches, who is still working hard to provide social and humanitarian assistance, besides the restoration of homes in order to encourage the return of the rest of displaced families. Hence, Synod members assured their commitment to stand by Iraqis and provide them with assistance as far as they could despite all the challenges.

Furthermore, Synod Fathers called upon faithful wherever are they, to be steadfast and patient in living their faith and hope; and to uphold the heritage, of their church, and ancestors along with the language. They also extended their sincere thanks to all the Ecclesiastical Institutions and International Civil Organizations that supported them during their long-suffering: “With so many witnesses in a great cloud all around us, we too, then, should throw off everything that weighs us down and the sin that clings so closely, and with perseverance keep running in the race which lies ahead of us, Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection” (Hebrews 12: 1-2).

Second: Public Affairs

Since, Iraqi Christians still await the forming of a strong national civil Government that provides them and all other Iraqi citizens with equality, freedom, democracy and decent life that respects pluralism, the Synod Fathers strongly support the contents of H. B.’s letter to Iraqi politicians, dated on 30 July 2018; endorse the efforts of Iraqis, especially those who showed a good will in building national unity; confront strictly the widespread corruption; and ensure the “accurate” functioning of constitutional institutions to work diligently for promoting Iraq economy and providing employment opportunities for the upcoming generations away from quotas and sectarianism. They also demand that Government help displaced families in restoring their homes, rehabilitating their infrastructure, maintaining their properties and stop the process of demographic change. At the same time they  urge the international community help them having a decent and safe return.

In conclusion, Synod Fathers wish that the war in Syria and other Middle East countries will end and that everyone will make an effort to establish an everlasting peace in the region. They also appeal that the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran adopt dialogue and diplomatic means to resolve outstanding problems rather than impose punishing actions where innocent people always pay the price, especially that Iraqis have experienced thirteen years of sanction. Wars and sanctions won’t bring other than negative results.

Finally, Synod Fathers conveyed their best wishes to all Muslim sisters and brothers for the upcoming Eid al-Adha al Mubarak and extended their warmest congratulations and sincere wishes to continue living together in peace, stability and love.

Pope Fransiscus appoints patriarch Louis Raphael Sako to cardinal

Pope Francis will create fourteen new cardinals on 29 June 2018, including our Chaldean patriarch Louis Raphael Raphael Sako.

For our patriarch Louis Raphael Sako this is a gift from the Pope to the entire Chaldean Church and a great support to the Christian minorities in Iraq, who have often been faced with persecutions by terrorist groups.

The Chaldean church father was born in Zakho (northern Iraq) on July 4, 1948. He studied in Mosul and was ordained a priest in 1974. In 2003 he was ordained Archbishop of Kirkuk. He was chosen in early 2013 as the new patriarch of the Chaldean Church.

After the nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize 2018, this is a second confirmation of his good commitment to the pursuit of a peaceful society in Iraq.

Patriarch Sako nominated for the ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ 2018

Louis Raphael I Sako, patriarch of the Chaldeans, has been nominated for the ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ 2018. For Mar Louis Sako, receiving a prize is not important, but rather the symbolic value of the gesture, because it helps to keep the focus on the Iraqi people alive, as well as on the Christian community, which is still the victim of attacks.

In Iraq and around the world, religious leaders, intellectuals and civil society organizations support the initiative to recognize the work of the Chaldean Patriarch for peaceful society and reconciliation, first as bishop and today as patriarch. This is an essential task in a country that is still characterized by violence, internal conflicts and sectarian divisions.

The nomination is supported by a number of people, in Iraq and the rest of the world, including Christians and Muslims who praise his work for a peaceful society.

The Chaldean community in Belgium and around the world is very proud of its hard-working Church Father.

AsiaNews