November 11, 2016

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) As Iraqi government forces continue their offensive to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the world is reminded of the violence and persecution that has affected Christians in the Middle East. Forced to abandon their homes, some are displaced within Iraq, and many have immigrated as refugees to other Middle Eastern countries, the United States, and elsewhere in the world, struggling to preserve their culture and languages. On Thursday, Nov. 17 , at 5 p.m. , Francis Y. Kalabat, bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy for Detroit and the East Coast, will participate in a panel discussion - "Will Christianity Survive in the Middle East?" - at The Catholic University of America. Born in Kuwait in 1970 as an Iraqi citizen who immigrated to the United States in 1979, Bishop Kalabat has served as the eparch of St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Detroit since June 2014. The panel discussion will focus on Chaldean Catholics, an Aramaic-speaking Christian community that has existed for almost 2,000 years and united with Rome in the modern era. The other panelists include:

  • Robert W. Wilken, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity Emeritus, University of Virginia;
  • Sidney H. Griffith, professor emeritus, Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures, Catholic University, and
  • Shawqi Talia, Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures, Catholic University, and visiting fellow, University of Muenster.

The panel discussion coincides with a project that's underway at Catholic University to preserve the culture, languages, and traditions of eastern Christian communities beginning with those of the Chaldean Catholics, many of whom have settled in the suburbs of Detroit. Christian Communities of the Middle East: A Cultural Heritage Project , which involves an interdisciplinary team of researchers, is a partnership between the University's School of Theology and Religious Studies and its Institute of Christian Oriental Research. Robin Darling Young, a member of the project team and an associate professor of Church history, notes that the team started its larger project by documenting the stories of Chaldean Catholics who immigrated to the Detroit area. Capturing the stories of older community members became a way to preserve what was in danger of being lost. "We're recording their history, but, it's not just the history of the Chaldeans but of the entire diaspora of Middle Eastern Christianity," notes Young. "As Catholics, we're concerned about others who are in desperate situations. In this case, as experts, we know their history and language. We appreciate the value and beauty of that and realize it shouldn't be lost. It's a privilege to record their history." The cultural heritage project is part of a larger faculty initiative called Eastern Christian Communities Effort, which is beginning to establish ways to help Christians in the Middle East, including transitional housing for internally displaced persons, economic development projects, peacebuilding efforts, and international legal collaboration. Sponsored by the School of Theology and Religious Studies, the panel discussion is free and open to the public. A reception will follow. MEDIA: To schedule an interview or attend this event, contact the Office of Marketing and Communications at or 202-319-5600 . Getting to Campus: The Catholic University of America is located near the Brookland-CUA red line metro stop. Please note the metro stop will be closed due to Metro's Safetrack. For directions to campus and a campus map, please click here .