Skip navigation.
Home

 

Refugee Voices




NEED HELP? RESOURCE GUIDE FOR REFUGEES

Find resources for refugees throughout San Diego County by clicking this link. Many services are available including help with resettlement, immigration, education, jobs, literacy, healthcare, and much more. 

You can also find an interactive map here.

CHRISTIANS TAKE UP ARMS AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE IN IRAQ,

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Islamic State militants

February 10, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) --Hundreds of Christians in Iraq are taking up arms and training to fight against Islamic State forces and reclaim their towns, the Wall Street Journal reports.

A BORN LEADER, WITH THE STRENGTH TO RALLY HER VILLAGE TOGETHER AND MOTIVATE OTHERS

 

 

 

Janju: The Voice Of One Girl, by Priscilla Koranteng (Poised Publishing LLC, Lanham, Maryland, 2014, 150 pages.)

Book Review by Dennis Moore

January 27, 2015 (San Diego's East County) - Priscilla Koranteng, an author and businesswoman born in Ghana, West Africa, to a teacher and politician, and who grew up with a lot of optimism and the zeal to achieve the best in all she could, has written a warm and fictional account of a young girl growing up in Africa; Janju: The Voice Of One Girl.

CHALDEAN PATRIARCH DEFIES POPE, ORDERS PRIESTS BACK TO IRAQ

 

East County News Service

Photo: St. Peter’s Cathedral in El Cajon; photo by Khari Johnson

January 18, 2015 (El Cajon)—Chaldean Church Patriarch Louis Sako has issued a statement published in an Arabic language publication indicating that he refuses to recognize the authority of Pope Francis.

AKRAM: DAUGHTER OF IRAN, A MOTHER'S LOVE FOR HER DAUGHTER

 

Akram, by Akram Arastehjoo (The Scriptory, Stacy Thunes Krieger, Menlo Park, California, 2014, 115 pages).

Screenplay Review by Dennis Moore

January 7, 2015 (San Diego's East County) - Akram Arastehjoo, a descendant of the great Persian Empire, which we now know as Iran, tells her own and personal family story that encapsulates the long and illustrious history of kings and queens, in a screenplay written by Stacy Thunes Krieger, Akram. The author actually derives her name from the Holy Quran; meaning generosity, or “most generous.” This is pointed out by Krieger in this well-written and warm story.  Arastehjoo is unabashed in her pride for everything that is Persian, and rightfully so. It comes across in my interview of the author and throughout the story. I have been made aware that Iran actually converted from the original name of Persia to Iran in 1935, but it did take some getting used to. Many seem to prefer that bygone era of Persia, and all it stood for, including the iconic Darius the Great.

IMMIGRANTS LINE UP TO APPLY FOR DRIVER'S LICENSES

 

East County News Service

January 2, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)--Starting January 1st, California has begun issuing special driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Across San Diego, lines formed as immigrants stepped up to apply for the new licenses, which are valid only for driving and are not valid for use as a federal ID, such as applying for a passport.

NILE SISTERS HONORS ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS AT PORTRAITS OF SUCCESS EVENT

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photos by Nat Roberts and Miriam Raftery

Hear our radio coverage of this event for KNSJ:  http://kiwi6.com/file/209625u098

December 29, 2014 (City Heights) – At the Nile Sisters’ 2nd annual community celebration, Portraits of Success, local refugees and immigrants were honored for their achievements and heard inspirational and motivational stories.

“Keep dreaming, keep believing in yourselves,” urged keynote speaker Mark Kabban, a CNN hero and founder of Youth and Leaders Living Actively (YALLA).

PETITION ASKS U.S. TO ARM CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ

 

By Miriam Raftery

November 28, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – A petition launched on Change.org by  Nahren Nora, an Iraqi-American woman in Michigan, is asking President Barack Obama and Congress to” arm Christians in Iraq and grant them their ancestral land of the Nineveh Province before they face extinction.”

CHALDEAN AMERICAN ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR UNITY IN COMMUNITY AT ANNUAL AWARDS

 

 

 

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photos, (ltop left to lower right):  Noori Barka and Supervisor Dianne Jacob, Wadi Deddeh and Congressman Susan Davis, Father Noel and Congressman Juan Vargas, Lion of Babylon/Citizen of the Year presentation to Pastor Harold Brown (third from right)

 

 

November 13, 2014 (El Cajon ) – With a theme of “together, we can build a better community,” the Chaldean American Association convened at the Crystal Ballroom in El Cajon on October 30th for the organization’s annual awards banquet. 

LOCAL CHALDEAN CHURCH APPEALS TO POPE TO SAVE PRIESTS ORDERED TO RETURN TO IRAQ OR FACE SUSPENSION

 

Photo: Father Noel and Congressman Juan Vargas, at Chaldean-American Association banquet Oct. 30

By Miriam Raftery

November 2, 2014 (El Cajon)—Father Noel at St. Peter’s Cathedral in El Cajon is among nine Chaldean Catholic priests ordered to return to Iraq, a situation that likely amounts to a death sentence, or be suspended from the priesthood.

Louis Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church in Iraq, ordered nine priests from the local diocese suspended on October 22 for refusing to return to Iraq, where priests are being tortured and murdered by ISIS terrorists and mass is no longer being held due to the danger.  Now the Eparchy of St. Peter has appealed these suspensions to Pope Francis.

Under church canons, the suspensions are on hold until the Pope issues his decision.

INSIDE KURDISTAN'S REFUGEE CAMPS: A REPORT FROM RESCUE TASK FORCE

 

 

 

 

 

Rescue Task Force, a nonprofit international rescue organization that started in East County, now has a team in Kurdistan/Iraq assisting the refugees there. It has been difficult even for major international media to get reports from inside this region, since many news organizations have pulled out their correspondents after the beheading of two journalists by ISIS terrorists (also known as ISIL or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Today we received this report from Gary Becks, founder and president of RTF, on the situation he and his team have found there as they work to assist religious minorities forced to flee their homes.

By Gary Becks

October 5, 2014 (Kurdistan)--Less than one mile separated us from ISIS.  It was too close for comfort, but it was where comfort was needed the most.  One of our RTF mottos is: We Go To Where Others Will Not, To Do What Others Will Not’.

In the Nineveh region of Kurdistan (Iraq) there are formal refugee camps set up in proximity to major cities to help the one million two hundred thousand displaced people.

Out here in the hinterland, though, there are tens of thousands of refugees who fled from ISIS into these countryside areas where they had connections and/or to where they feel safer than in the large metropolitan camps.

CONGRESS ADJOURNS WITHOUT TAKING ACTION ON IRAQI REFUGEE BILL

 

By Miriam Raftery

September 28, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--Congress adjourned last week without voting upon a measure to help relocate Iraqi minorities displaced by ISIL, the Islamic terrorists who have seized control of much of Iraq and Syria.

ASYLUM BILL INTRODUCED FOR IRAQI RELIGIOUS MINORITIES

 

By Miriam Raftery

“We are confident that with the continued support of the citizens of San Diego, we will not only be able to give a hope to the hopeless, but a state to the stateless.” -- MarkArabo

September 9, 2014 (San Diego) – Congressman Juan Vargas is introducing a new bill that would grant asylum for religious minorities displaced by the ISIS, or Islamic State, terrorists in Iraq.

RESCUE TASK FORCE HEADS OVERSEAS TO AID IRAQI CHRISTIAN REFUGEES: $20,000 IN DONATIONS SOUGHT FOR RELIEF EFFORT

 

Photo:  At a recent rally in El Cajon, thousands of local Iraqi Christians implored America to send help for their families in Iraq fleeing genocide

 

By Miriam Raftery

September 7, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)—Rescue Task Force, an international aid group that started in East County, announced today that it will send a multi-national team of veteran disaster responders to help refugees displaced in Kurdistan by ISIS or Islamic State terrorists. The RTF volunteers will bring medical and dental help along with humanitarian supplies.

The group will meet up in California with leaders Gary Becks and Larry Cutting. They will travel to Erbil and then trek to northern Kurdistan.

To date, 1.2 million people have survived the initial slaughter by ISIS forces and have fled to safe havens in Erbil and Kurdistan, faced with a stark choice of fleeing, converting to Islam, or being beheaded.  Most fled with only the clothes on their backs.

NEW LAND, NEW HOPE: SOMALI-BANTU ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA CELEBRATION SEPT. 20

 

September 5, 2014 (San Diego)—A cultural celebration featuring music, dance and cuisine of San Diego’s Somali-Bantu community will be held on Saturday, September 20 from 2-5 p.m. at the United Domestic Workers of America office, 4855 Seminole Drive, San Diego.

OVER A HALF MILLION DOLLARS RAISED LOCALLY TO HELP IRAQI CHRISTIANS

 

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left:  Noori Barka speaks as slideshow depicts Iraqi Christian refugees forced to walk across the desert, fleeing their homeland to escape ISIS terrorists with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

 

September 4, 2014 (ElCajon)--Community members and religious leaders came together on August 27  in El Cajon at a fundraiser to help save Christians in Iraq who have fled their homes to escape the Islamic State imposed by ISIS terrorists.  ISIS is systematically massacring Christians and other minorities who refuse to convert to Islam.  The event, which was emceed by KCBQ radio host Mark Larson, raised over $588,000. 

Bishop Sharhad Jammo (photo, right) has pledged to personally  travel to the Middle East to deliver the donations, despite grave dangers in the region, where Christian religious leaders have been kidnapped, tortured and murder.

FUNDRAISER TONIGHT IN EL CAJON TO HELP IRAQI CHRISTIANS

 

 

 

East County Chaldean Bishop Jammo to personally deliver donations from Iraqi Christian Relief Fund fundraiser to persecuted Christians in Iraq

East County News Service

August 27, 2014 (El Cajon) Tonight at 7 p.m.,  over 700 San Diegans, including the Chaldean community, will gather in solidarity to raise funds for persecuted Iraqi Christians, at the Iraqi Christian Relief Fund (ICRF) fundraiser at St Peters Chaldean Cathedral in Rancho San Diego.

This is the first major fundraiser in San Diego for persecuted Iraqi Christians.

Speakers at the fundraiser showing unity with Iraqi Christians, will include Dr. Jim Garlow, Senior Pastor of Skyline Church in Rancho San Diego.

ISIS CAPTURES IRAQ'S LARGEST CHRISTIAN CITY: IRAQIS IN SAN DIEGO & MIDDLE EAST ISSUE WARNING FOR THE WORLD

 

"Your sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future…You are in danger." -- Exiled Iraqi Archbishop Amel Shimoun Nona

By Miriam Raftery

August 25, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Qaraqosh, the largest Christian city in Iraq (photo, left), has been overrun by Islamic State terrorists (formerly known as ISIS, the Islamic Sate of Iraq and Syria), CNN reports.

Sean Malone from Crisis Relief International (CRI) sent a heart-wrenching text message stating, “We lost the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh). It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically.”

KALASHO CALLS FOR NEW PROVINCE TO BE FORMED IN IRAQ AS SAFE HAVEN FOR PERSECUTED CHALDEANS AND OTHER MINORITIES

 

By Nadin Abbott, Reporting San Diego

Reporting San Diego sat down on August 22 in Santee with Ben Kalasho, a leader in the Chaldean community, to discuss genocide in Iraq. Excerpts below are reprinted with permission.

Aug. 24, 2014 (Santee)--“All those people who you see on the mountain side on Sinjar, sleeping on what seems to be the front of churches, those people were homeowners, they owned vehicles, they had jobs or owned businesses and are now homeless,” said Ben Kalasho, a leader in the Chaldean community and President of the East County Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce.

According to Kalasho,600,000 people are internally displaced in Iraq. This is an almost incomprehensible number, but we cannot turn away from it.

Our leaders, starting with the President, have mentioned the Yazidis, who are an ancient people that precede Islam and Christianity in Iraq. But the plight of other minorities, including Christian Chaldeans, Siriacs and others has not drawn the same level of national media attention.

LOCAL CHALDEANS FIGHT TO REMOVE ISIS RECRUITMENT SITES FOR TERRORISTS

 

Pins pop up to show solidarity with people displaced by ISIS

By Miriam Raftery

August 23, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – After finding that the Islamic extremist group ISIS had an Instagram page for recruiting potential terrorists and next finding an ISIS Facebook page boasting of atrocities, Ben Kalasho of El Cajon set out to shut down ISIS online.

CALLS NEEDED TO LEGISLATIVE LEADERS TO SAVE IRAQI CHRISTIANS, REVIVE RESOLUTION, LOCAL LEADERS SAY

 

By Miriam Raftery

August 22, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – The California Assembly Rules Committee has stalled an emergency measure, SJR 17, by Senator Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon) that calls for executive action to left a regional immigration ceiling and allow persecuted Iraqi Christians to come to America. 

The measure faces imminent death Monday unless legislators act, said Mark Arabo, national spokesman for Iraqi Christians and President/CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association. Concerned citizens are urged to call Speaker of the Assembly Toni Atkins at (916)319-2078 and Assemblyman Richard Gordon, Chair of the Assembly Rules Committee at (650) 691-2121 today to urge passage of SJR 17.

PEACE MARCHERS IN EL CAJON ASK U.S. & UNITED NATIONS FOR AIRLIFTS, ASYLUM TO SAVE IRAQI CHRISTIANS

 

United Nations passes resolution for sanctions against ISIS backers; local Iraqis ask for airlifts to save lives

Hear our exclusive interview with Mark Arabo on progress at the United Nations to save Iraqi Christians, originally aired Aug. 20 on the East County Magazine Show on KNSJ 89.1 FM:

http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/6scu4kz7x2/Arabo-UNresolutioninterviewfor8-20-14show-FINAlwithrallyclips.mp3

 

By Miriam Raftery

August 21, 2014 (El Cajon) – Chanting “Save Iraq, save humanity,” and “Save Iraqi Christians,” hundreds of Iraqi-Americans marched through the streets of El Cajon on Tuesday. Many are gravely concerned about family members trapped in Iraq or who have fled as refugees as terrorists now calling themselves the Islamic State have seized cities across Iraq, torturing , killing or kidnapping those who refuse to convert to Islam.  The community showed support, with many motorists honking horns and drawing cheers.

Speakers, including former State Senator Wadie Deddeh, Chaldean-American leader Mark Arabo, and religious leaders also turned out to show solidarity with the persecuted minorities of Iraq.

LOCAL KURDS RALLY TO PROTEST ISIS TERRORIST ATTACKS: HEAR OUR INTERVIEW WITH A LOCAL KURDISH-AMERICAN WITH FAMILY IN TURMOIL

 

Update: Hear our interview with  a loca Kurdish-American whose family is caught up in the tragic actions unfolding in Kurdistan under the ISIS assault. Listen online now: http://kiwi6.com/file/toy925ngc9 (This interview originally aired on the East County Magazine Show on KNSJ 89.1 FM)

 

Anguish hits home for local Kurdish residents

By Miriam Raftery

August 11, 2014 (San Diego) – “This is a great humanitarian tragedy, and another genocide against the Kurdish nation,” Kurdish-American Amina (who asked that her last name be withheld) told East County Magazine.  She is horrified at news reports of beheadings, mass graves and the kidnapping of young girls as sex slaves by ISIS terrorists who have laid siege to the city of Shingal and trapped 100,000 refugees atop the Shingal Mountain. She is also frightened by what she is hearing from relatives in the region.

"No one feels safe there. People are hopeless,” she says.

Now the crisis has impacted her own family, like many of the 4,000 to 5,000 Kurdish people in the San Diego region and 15,000 Kurds in the U.S. overall. 

“The Kurdish people know that their dear Pesharga do not have weapons to defend them from these barbarians, and this makes them live and die in fear. We hear that the Kurdish government is asking people (one of them being my brother) to find themselves weapons and join the Peshmarga,” she wrote in an e-mail to East County Magazine. “Sadly, most people do not have weapons, so if they go to war, they will go with bare hands.”

IDENTITY THEFT SCAM TARGETS REFUGEES

 

August 15, 2014 (San Diego)—The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has issued a warning to local refugee groups about a new fraud scheme to rob refugees of personal data, which can be used to commit identity theft.

PEACE WALK TO END GENOCIDE IN IRAQ:AUGUST 19 IN EL CAJON

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

August 18, 2014 (El Cajon)—Mark Arabo, a national leader among Chaldean Christians in the U.S., has announced plans to lead a “massive” group of Iraqi Christians in a “peace walk to end genocide in Iraq” Tuesday in El Cajon. 

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians and other minorities have been displaced from their homes, murdered or mutiliated in attacks by  ISIS terrorists in Iraq who now call themselves the Islamic State. A prayer vigil earlier this month for Iraq Christians held in El Cajon drew an estimated 2,000 people.

PRESIDENT LAUNCHES AIR STRIKES AGAINST IRAQI TERRORISTS TO HALT “GENOCIDE”

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: President Obama meets with national security advisors on August 7 (WhiteHouse.gov)

August 8, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – U.S. fighter jets today dropped two 500-pound bombs on terrorists’ artillery that were being used to attack Kurdish forces in Irbil, the capitol of the Kurdish province in Iraq. In addition, U.S. planes dropped humanitarian relief to aid refugees stranded without food or water.

President Barack Obama last night authorized the use of force against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al Qaeda splinter group that has renamed itself the Islamic State.  The President also authorized humanitarian aid for victims of ISIS forced to flee their homes or be killed, including persecuted Christians and other religious minorities. The President made clear however that he will not authorize ground troops in the conflict.

Locally the announcement drew praise from Mark Arabo, CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association and a national spokesman for Iraqi Christians.

​"​Our work that began seven weeks ago in Congressman Juan Vargas’ office has resulted in a crescendo of tears, smiles and joy throughout the ​entire Iraqi Christian community​," Arabo said, referring to a Congressional resolution authored by Vargas and drafted by Arabo calling for humanitarian aid. 

SOMALI BANTU ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA DISCUSSES ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND ASKS FOR MORE VOLUNTEERS AND PROMOTION OPPORTUNITIES

 

By Janis Russell

August 7, 2014 (San Diego)- At the July 31 Somali Bantu Association of America board meeting, president and CEO, Said Abiyow, told ECM he is specifically looking for more volunteers to help promote events and they also hope to promote themselves.

LOCAL CHURCH HOSTS BORDER CHILDREN FORUM: AUGUST 17 IN LA MESA

 

Church launches drive to save lives, help children fleeing violence

"Jesus himself was a refugee, who with his family fled to a foreign as an infant." --Rev. Kaji Dousa

Hear our interview with Doug Brunson from UCCLM: http://www.kiwi6.com/file/gvviv3lgb6

View or sign a petition to help the children: http://tableucc.com/witness/sign-the-petition-central-american-refugee-crisis/

By Miriam Raftery

 

August 7, 2014 (La Mesa)—United Church of Christ in La Mesa has stepped forward to help children from Central America who have sought refuge in the United States, fleeing violence, drug trafficking and threats of death.   The public is invited to a Border Children panel discussion on Sunday, August 17 at 3 p.m.  at the church, located at 5940 Kelton Avenue, La Mesa.

 “We need to welcome the strangers. We need to help those in need,” Doug Brunson with UCCLM told East County Magazine in a recent radio interview, quoting Jesus.  “This is a crisis…something that needs to be addressed now,” he said of the 50,000 children.

ARABO-LED COALITION CALLS FOR PRESIDENTIAL ORDER TO PROTECT CHRISTIANS--AND DRONE STRIKES AGAINST ISIS

 

East County News Service

Photo: Arabo speaking at rally for Iraqi Christians last month in El Cajon

August 6, 2014 (El Cajon)—Mark Arabo,  a local Chaldean leader, and a coalition he has assembled will meet with U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice at the White House on Thursday and possibly Secretary of State John Kerry.  A press release announcing the upcoming meeting states that they will discuss the Christian genocide in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon by the terrorist group ISIS.

WORLDWIDE PROTEST HITS HOME FOR EAST COUNTY RESIDENTS OVER VIOLENCE AGAINST CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA

 

By Janis Russell

August 3, 2014 (El Cajon)- Yesterday was another protest rally over violence against Christians in Iraq and Syria at Prescott Promenade in El Cajon. There was also a rally last month and a prayer vigil. The latest event was organized by the East County Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce. There was an estimated attendance of about 100 at this rally.

Syndicate content