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Detroit Rally Planned to Back Iraqi Christians
By Cecil Angel

The terrorist attack last Sunday on a Catholic church in Iraq angered Andre Anton.

The Farmington Hills man said two of his cousins were shot to death -- one of them a priest -- and their mother was wounded in the attack on Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Church in Baghdad.

"I was very upset," said Anton, 26. "I had a lot of hatred in me, and I wanted to take it out of me in a positive way."

Anton is one of the organizers of a rally scheduled for noon Monday at the McNamara Federal Building in downtown Detroit. He said he hopes Assyrians, Chaldeans and other Christians will be joined by Jews, Muslims and people of other faiths in generating support for persecuted Christians in Iraq.

Across the nation and in some foreign countries, rallies will be held simultaneously at government buildings.

According to the Facebook page "The March Against the Ethnic Cleansing of Iraq's Indigenous Christians," organizers say they hope thousands of people worldwide participate.

Other rallies are scheduled in Phoenix, New York City, Chicago, San Diego and other cities.

The attack shocked the metro Detroit Chaldean community, which has struggled for years to bring attention to persecution by Muslims that has forced thousands of Christians to flee the country. At least 58 people were killed during the 41/2-hour hostage saga last Sunday.

Chaldeans say Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had given some protection from Muslim extremists. But they say similar protection has not come from U.S. forces in Iraq, nor from the Iraqi government.

"This is not as big an issue in the United States," Martin Manna, executive director of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, said of the persecution.

Anton said Hoda Abdal, the mother of his slain cousins, recounted in a phone call to his mother how the Rev. Thaier Saad Abdal, 32, and Raid Abdal, 36, were killed at the church.

"She was crying on the phone saying, 'I wished they had killed me. I could be in heaven with them,'" he said.

According to Anton, she said that as one of the priests read scripture, the gunmen burst into the sanctuary. The Rev. Abdal approached them and tried to reason with them, but they gunned him down.

Abdal's brother, sitting in the pews, rushed to help him and also was shot.

Hoda Abdal said that after the attackers shot her sons, they shot her in the leg as she cradled her older son as he was dying, Anton said.

"They didn't kill her," Anton said. "They told her they wanted her to live the rest of her life in misery."


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