Refugee Voices

LOVE IS BLIND

 

 

 

A Foreign Affair, by Amanda Matti (W & B Publishers, Kernersville, NC, 2016, 343 pages).

Book Review by Dennis Moore

December 1, 2016 (San Diego) - Amanda Matti, an El Cajon (San Diego) resident who served six years in the United States Navy, including a 2005 deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, has written a riveting true story of romance and war; A Foreign Affair. Matti provides graphic details of her experience in a war that many in this country felt never should have been.

A REVOLUTION OF STRUGGLE CONTINUES FOR SYRIAN REFUGEES IN EAST COUNTY

 

Fleeing violence in Syria, some fear homelessness in U.S.

By Rachel Williams

December 1, 2016 (El Cajon) -- Within the Villas of Embasadora, a motel in El Cajon, Syrian refugees have converted their rooms into makeshift homes where it’s cheaper for families of eight, or eleven to survive, than in San Diego’s public housing where costs have risen sharply.

SYRIAN REFUGEES THANKFUL FOR NEW LIVES IN SAN DIEGO REGION

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo courtesy of ECM news partner 10 News

November 25, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – The youngest survivors of Syria’s civil war are a traumatized generation.  In the U.S., 80% of the 10,000 Syrian refugees admitted in 2016 are children—and nearly all have suffered unspeakable trauma. 

A CALL FOR COMMUNITY INCLUSION OF SYRIAN REFUGEES

 

By Rachel Williams

Photo (left to right): Ramla Sahid, founder and executive director of the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans; Shadi Martini, senior Syria advisor to the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees; Dr. Georgette Bennett, President of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding; David Murphy, former county director for the IRC in Ethiopia; Sana Shtasel, senior advisor to the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees.

Of the 16,000 Syrian refugees resettled in the U.S. in recent years, not a single one has been tied to terrorism. San Diego has more Syrian refugees than any other U.S. city.

November 22, 2016 (San Diego) – Shadi Martini was manager of a hospital in Aleppo, Syria, when the Assad regime began to prosecute suspects working in opposition. Martini and his coworkers provided undercover aid to the wounded and people suffering.  But in 2012, the secret network was discovered, forcing him to flee the country.

Thereafter he served as an organizing assistant for Syrian refugees in a neighboring nation. Later, he joined the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian refugees in Jordan.

 “What I have witnessed is suffering is not limited to my country,” Martini said during a post-election discussion on refugees held last Thursday in San Diego by the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees and The Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans.

NEWCOMERS’ COLLABORATIVE WORKSHOP IN EL CAJON DREW OVER 100 PARTICIPANTS

 

Source: Newcomers’ Collaborative

November 20, 2016 (El Cajon) -- On Saturday, November 5th, 2016, 91 Spanish Speakers and at least 24 children attended a resource event coordinated by the Newcomers’ Collaborative, a workgroup of the El Cajon Collaborative. The event provided an opportunity for newcomers to browse local resources and attend workshops on navigating the education system, immigration and civic engagement, Child Welfare Services, domestic violence, equal housing rights and employment. Attendees were also able to apply for public benefits such as Cal-Fresh and Medi-Cal on-site, or ask questions regarding their eligibility or specific case.         

EAST COUNTY MAGAZINE WINS AWARDS FOR COVERAGE OF BORDER FIRE, COVERT CANYON AND IRAQI IMMIGRANT ISSUES

 

East County News Service

October 27, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) -- East County Magazine editor Miriam Raftery picked up three awards in San Diego Press Club’s 2016 Excellence in Journalism Awards competition.

Our entry titled “Border Fire Leaves Residents Burned Over Bureaucratic Bungling” won the Wildcard category; this year the wildcard topic was “life on the border.”  Our media outlet beat out media in all categories for this prestigious award including TV, radio, newspapers and magazines countywide.

A TRUE STORY OF LOVE AND WAR

 

A Foreign Affair: A True Story of Love and War, by Amanda Matti (Available at Amazon.com, 2016, 354 pages).

Preview by Dennis Moore

October 19, 2016 (San Diego) - I can’t wait to get my hands on this book, as the author, an El Cajon resident has indicated to me just today that she will be mailing it out to me for my review in the East County Magazine. She will also appear on our “East County Magazine Live!” radio show to be interviewed with all the salacious details of this book. A Foreign Affair has all the ingredients of true love and intrigue in a foreign country, which the author describes as “love at first sight” between herself, as a U.S. Navy Analyst, and her Iraqi translator Fahdi, in war-torn Iraq.

JERRY JONES TAKES STAND AGAINST REPEALING LEMON GROVE’S WELCOMING CITIES ORDINANCE

 

By Jonathan Goetz

October 19, 2016 (Lemon Grove) -- At prior meetings citizens have voiced concerns over marijuana. But at last night’s Lemon Grove City Council meeting, instead of pot they were talking about potholes.  Council also heard arguments that the city lacked priorities when it passed a Welcoming Cities Resolution.  The resolution was modeled after a White House initiative to help newcomers by assisting refugees and immigrants integrate into communities.

SOMALI-BANTU ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA PRESENTS ANNUAL FUNDRAISER SEPT. 17

 

East County News Service

September 6, 2016 (San Diego) -- The Somali-Bantu Association of America, a nonprofit dedicated to providing guidance and services to empower Somali Bantu and other refugees as they integrate into American life, presents its annual fundraising benefit, RAJA = HOPE!  The event is a cultural celebration featuring music, dancing and cuisine of the Somali-Bantu community.

U.S. MAY END USE OF PRIVATE IMMIGRATION DETENTION FACILITES

 

East County Magazine reported on complaints about a CCA private immigration detention facility in San Diego County back in 2011

By Miriam Raftery

August 29, 2016 (Washington D.C.) – Just one week after the U.S. Justice Department announced plans to phase out its use of 13 private prisons due to reports of serious abuse and ineffectiveness, as ECM reported,  Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson today called for a review to determine if use of private immigration detention facilities should be eliminated. The review should be done by November 30.

SOMALIANS PROTEST UNFAIR TREATMENT

 

By Janis Russell 

July 15, 2016 (San Diego) - Somalians have endured unfair treatment as employees at GTS (Glacier Technical Solutions).  On Tuesday, many of them lined up outside 555 W Beech St, where the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is located, to protest and make the public aware of their situation. 

"CHALDEAN VOICES: SEEKING PEACE AND OPPORTUNITY IN EL CAJON" AIRS AUG. 14 AT 1 PM ON KPBS

 

East County News Service

Photo: Chrestin, Salwan, and Sinan pray at St. Peter’s Chaldean American Church in El Cajon, California.

July 14, 2016 (El Cajon) - In light of the conflict in the Middle East and drastic increase in hostility and persecution over the past 10-15 years, thousands of Chaldeans have fled Iraq and are now seeking refuge in the United States. Over the past 30 years, they have arrived impoverished and traumatized; and, today, over 40,000 Chaldeans reside in the city of El Cajon, California.

ARABO STANDS UP FOR FATHER NOEL, PLANS APPEAL TO POPE

 

"Father Noel is amazing in the halls of Congress. We were able to get 20,000 more visas for Chaldeans to come here. For his success, he is being punished.  The church is saying that no Iraqi Christians should leave Iraq..Wewlil not allow himto be sent like a cow to slaughter.--Mark Arabo

By Miriam Raftery

July 12, 2016 (El Cajon)-- Friday is the deadline for Father Noel Gorgis to leave the St. Peter Chaldean Catholic diocese, under an order signed by interim Bishop  ShlemunWarduni and Patriarch Mar Louis Sako. Pope Francis previously intervened to overturn an order for Father Noel to be transferred to Iraq, after local Chaldeans made clear he is needed here, and that his life would be in jeopardy in Iraq.  The new order seeks to punish Father Noel for disobeying the Patriarch despite the Pope's wishes that he remain serving his parish here.

Now Mark Arabo, founder of the Minority Humanitarian Foundation and a prominent spokesman for Chaldean-Americans, is joning with other parishioners here to defend Father Noel.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: BISHOP WARDUNI SPEAKS OUT ON PLIGHT OF CHALDEANS AROUND THE WORLD

 

By Miriam Raftery

East County Magazine was granted an exclusive interview yesterday with Bishop Mar Schlemon Warduni, who has been serving as interim Bishop  and apostolic administrator of St.Peter Chaldean Catholic Diocese since May, following the retirement of Bishop Sarhad Jammo.  Bishop Warduni leaves the U.S. today to head for Rome and then Iraq, awaiting appointment of a permanent Bishop for the San Diego region.

 Bishop Warduni has long served in Baghdad, Iraq under Patriarch Mar Louis Sako, and as Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Council. He has worked to build over20 projects serving Christians in Iraq, including a church, senior citizens home, student/youth complex, homes for priests and a Bishop’s house. (Read his full biography here.)

In our interview, Bishop Warduni discussed the plight of Christians in Iraq and in refugee camps,  the challenges of keeping Chaldean culture alive,  the controversy over Father Noel Gorgis being asked to leave the diocese, and Bishop Warduni’s hopes for the future.

FATHER NOEL ORDERED TO LEAVE ST. PETER CHALDEAN DIOCESE ON JULY 15, 2016

 

 

By Miriam Raftery, East County News Service

July 10, 2016 (El Cajon)—In January 2015, Pope Francis issued a ruling to protect Father Noel Gorgis, a popular, zealous priest at St. Peter’s Chaldean Cathedral in El Cajon, as ECM reported. The Pope invalidated a decree issued by Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako, which would have required Father Noel and several other U.S. priests to return to Iraq, where the Islamic State has been slaughtering Christian religious leaders. The Pope’s action was applauded by local Chaldean leaders. Father Noel has been a leading voice locally and nationally, on behalf of Chaldean-Americans and Chaldean immigrants.

But now the new interim Bishop for the St. Peter Chaldean Catholic diocese of San Diego, Shlemun Warduni, has issued an order for Father Noel to leave St. Peter’s effective Friday, July 15, 2016, multiple church sources have confirmed.  Bishop Warduni is a temporary replacement for Bishop Sarhad Jammo, who recently retired and had been a defender of Father Noel, as ECM reported.

HOPE FOR IRAQI CHRISTIANS SEEKS MATCHING FUNDS BY JULY 4 TO HELP 200 REFUGEE FAMILIES: ADOPT A FAMILY FOR JUST $1 A DAY

 

East County News Service

June 25, 2016 (La Mesa)—Hope for Iraqi Christians, a La Mesa based organization that assists Iraqi Christian refugees fleeing genocide in the Middle East, has received a pledge from the  Anahid Oram Memorial Refugee Fund to match $10,000 in monthly donations, sponsoring 100 families per month, but only if they can secure sponsors for at least 100 families by July 4. If that goal is met, the matching funds will mean that 200 families will be helped.

You can sponsor a family for as little as  $1 a day. Each donor will receive information on the family adopted.  Smaller donations will be pooled to help reach the total. Or consider adopting multiple families.

WHO IS AFFECTED BY SUPREME COURT RULING ON IMMIGRANT DEPORTATIONS

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

June 26, 2016 (San Diego)--President Barack Obama’s executive orders to protect an estimated 5 million immigrants, or nearly half the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., from deportation have been blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The actions puts many immigrants brought here as children and parents of undocumented immigrants at risk of eventual deportation; their fate now depends on the outcome of the next election. The high court ruling also takes away new healthcare coverage recently granted by California to certain undocumented people.

Here’s what you need to know:

LOCAL CHALDEAN CHRISTIANS REACT WITH FEAR AS SUPREME COURT DEADLOCK THREATENS DEPORTATION BACK TO RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN IRAQ

 

East County News Service

Photo: Iraqi Chaldeans rallied in El Cajon in 2014 pleading for the U.S. to help to save Christians from ISIS.

 

June 23, 2016 (San Diego) — Fear rippled through the community here, as word of Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court vote reached San Diego, home to the nation’s largest concentration of Iraqi Christians.

“Today’s announcement is alarming for immigrant families everywhere, but it is particularly frightening for Chaldeans,” said Mark Arabo, spokesperson for the Western U.S. Chaldean Catholic Diocese and the Minority Humanitarian Foundation, a San Diego organization that has rescued over 400 Iraqi Christians fleeing genocide in the Middle East and seeks to help another 700,000 victimized by religious persecution.

“People who came here to escape religious persecution and extermination at the hands of ISIS are now being told they have to go back. They’re terrified.” Arabo said.

READER’S EDITORIAL: STAND TOGETHER #WITHREFUGEES ON #WORLDREFUGEEDAY

 

By Elizabeth Lou

June 20, 2016 (San Diego) -- With all the cataclysmic incidences happening around the world, the refugee crisis is one of chief concerns in recent history. Refugees are a population of concern because they are displaced due to unwarranted circumstances including armed conflict and political or religious persecution. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are more than 65 million displaced people in the world. That is approximately the populations of two U.S. states, California and Texas combined. Every year during the month of June, the international community commemorates the plight of refugees, as well as their contributions to their respective host countries.

PARALLELS FROM THE PAST: EXHIBIT ON INTERNMENT OF LOCAL JAPANESE-AMERICAN STUDENTS IN WWII EVOKES FEARS “IT COULD HAPPEN AGAIN,” SAYS HISTORIAN

 

By Chisato Iverson and Miriam Raftery

 

June 16, 2016 (La Mesa) –For Donna Neimeier at the La Mesa Historical Society, preparing an exhibit on Grossmont High School students forced into internment camps during World War II provided troubling memories from her own childhood.

“I was in first or second grade when all of this happened. I knew that my Japanese friends were gone…We didn’t know where they went,” she recalled.  After  her friends returned, she recalls, “They were very withdrawn and they never talked about it..”

Now she reflects, “Here I am, 75 years later, learning about this whole thing…I think with prejudice and the way we all feel about prejudice now, it’s something that is very upsetting to me personally, that it happened.”   The most important reason for the museum’s exhibit, she believes, is to teach people about the past, in hopes that it will never be repeated.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: GRACE KAMINAKA TSUIDA, JAPANESE INTERNMENT CAMP SURVIVOR FROM GROSSMONT HIGH SCHOOL

 

By Chisato Iversen

 

June 15, 2016 (La Mesa)-- Grace Kaminaka Tsuida, a student at Grossmont High School’s class of 1944, is a survivor of a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.  As part of an AP class project at Grossmont High School , students documented the experiences of Grossmont students who were interned.  Their stories are documented in  Japanese American AP US American Reports  and can be seen in a special exhibit at the La Mesa Historical Society during June. 

Grace Kaminaka Tsuida  was born  Sept. 9,1926 in Lemon Grove. She made friends easily, like other children, until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when the U.S. government sent her family and others to an internment camp.  After their release, they were given an apology from the government, though it failed to acknowledge the humiliation and confusion they experience.  Now, 67 years later, Grace’s niece, Judy Miyamoto, helped arrange for Grace to finally receive her Grossmont High School Diploma.

Now 90 years old, Grace granted an exclusive interview with East County Magazine.   Please read her compelling story.

MISS MIDDLE EAST USA PAGEANT WINNERS RECEIVE CROWNS, SHATTER STEREOTYPES

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

 

Photo: Ben Kalasho presents scholarship check to Zhala Tawfiq, Miss Middle East USA 2016

 

June 3, 2016 (San Diego) — “Our goal is to empower and embolden Middle Eastern women and redefine the world,” said Ben Kalasho, president of the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce, organizer of the  Miss Middle East USA Pageant. “This was such a unifying event in San Diego; the nation must see that there are strong, independent women from the Middle East who aspire to lead by example and promote equality and women’s rights.”

NEW BISHOP ARRIVES AT SAN DIEGO’S CHALDEAN DIOCESE

 

East County News Service

May 16, 2016 (El Cajon) – Pope Francis has named an interim replacement for the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of San Diego after the resignation of former Bishop Sarhad Jammo.  Bishop Jammo drew controversy for his efforts to prevent local priests from being sent back to Iraq, where their lives would be in danger due to ISIS attacks on clerics.

IRC INTERNATIONAL FILM SERIES ON REFUGEES CONTINUES MAY 16 AND 23

 

East County News Service

May 15, 2016 (San Diego) -The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in San Diego’s 8th Annual International Documentary Film Series continues May 16, and 23, screening three compelling documentary films that shed light on what life is like for refugees around the world. Plus, each film will be followed by Q&A with a guest speaker who has relevant firsthand experience providing humanitarian response to conflict and disaster.  See flyer on the website for schedule and details.

A MOTHER’S COURAGE: THE STRUGGLE OF AN ASYLUM-SEEKER

 

By Jaime Rodriguez-Sosa

Photo: Adenike O sought asylum to protect her daughter from violence and genital mutilation. Now she works as a Certified Nursing Assistant after completing a licensing program, also volunteering to train prospective students at Nile Sisters.

May 11, 2016 (San Diego) -- The California State Refugee Service Bureau states that since 1975, California has provided refuge to 700,000 people, with San Diego County being the most notable recipient of refugees in the whole state. On average San Diego resettles 2,500 refugees per year, with areas such as City Heights among the most prominent areas for resettlement. These numbers are expected to increase in coming years, with refugees from Syria being accepted to resettle in the United States.

HOPE FOR IRAQI CHRISTIANS RAISES MORE THAN $270,000 FOR REFUGEES

 

Nonprofit, Knights of Columbus Host Fundraiser to Support Victims of Genocide

By Reema Makani Boccia

May 7, 2016 (El Cajon) -- Hope for Iraqi Christians, a nonprofit organization supporting Christian refugees persecuted by ISIS, and the Knights of Columbus Mar Toma Council #10981 raised over $270,000 during a fundraising event on Thursday, May 5th in ElCajon. There were nearly 500 guests in attendance at the invite-only event hosted at the St. Peter’s Cathedral church hall.

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