Chaldeans are the indigenous people of Iraq who speak a form of Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus Christ and the oldest continuously spoken language in the world.
Chaldeans mainly resided in Northern Iraq as mountain dwellers and farmers in villages dating back to before Christ. Historically, Chaldeans are from the Arab World but are not Arabs. The Chaldean people of today are descendants of the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations and the Aramean legacy of Mesopotamia. They have a 5,500-year history dating back to Mesopotamia—the cradle of civilization—which is present day Iraq. In its heyday, Mesopotamia encompassed all of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and parts of Iran. According to the Old Testament (Gen. 11:31), Abraham was from the city of Ur—which is identified as “Ur of the Chaldeans,” the city of his ancestors.
Ancient Babylonians were the first civilization to:
- Invent the wheel
- Discover how to make glass
- Discover astronomy
- Use a writing system
- Invent the yearly calendar, composed of 360 days and 12 months
- Use weights and measures, which were standardized in Babylon around 2,500 B.C.
They are also known for major contributions to civilization, such as:
- Hammurabi’s Code, which was a revolutionary step in the development of fairness and equality under the law.
- In 600 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar built the “Hanging Gardens of Babylon” (one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) to console his queen who missed the mountains and greenery of her native Media.
Like many ethnic groups, Chaldeans began immigrating to the Metropolitan Detroit area in the 1920s in search of better economic, religious and political freedom and opportunities. While some were lured by Henry Ford’s famous $5-a-day working wage, in true Chaldean fashion entrepreneurial endeavors quickly took hold – particularly mom and pop food markets. Today, 61% of Chaldean households own one business and 39% own two or more. Chaldeans enjoy large, close-knit families. They are bound by their faith and unique culture.
Metro Detroit has the world’s largest population outside of Iraq, with an estimated 150,000 people. An estimated 300,000 more Chaldeans/Assyrians reside throughout the United States, particularly in Arizona, California, Illinois and other states. The population enjoys steady growth thanks to a constant influx of Christian refugees who have fled Iraq in the face of religious persecution.
Worldwide, Syria represents the 2nd largest Chaldean population with 2.2 million Christians. Many of these are Iraqi expatriates who are reliving the same horrors they fled due to the ongoing unrest in Syria. More Iraqi Christians may be displaced if the situation does not improve.
Chaldeans are Eastern Rite Catholic and united with the Roman Catholic Church but have separate Bishops and a Patriarch (Patriarch of Babylon for the Chaldeans) who resides in Iraq.
There are 12 Chaldean parishes in metro Detroit. They are:
- Sacred Heart Chaldean Catholic Church – Warren
- Mar Addai Chaldean Catholic Church – Oak Park
- Saint George Chaldean Catholic Church – Shelby Township
- Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church – Southfield
- Saint Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church – Troy
- Holy Martyrs Chaldean Catholic Church – Sterling Heights
- Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chaldean Mission – Warren
- Saint Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church – West Bloomfield
- Holy Cross Chaldean Catholic Church – Farmington Hills
- St. Paul Chaldean Catholic Church – Grand Blanc
- St. Mary Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East – Warren
- St. Toma Syriac Catholic Church – Farmington Hills
Other Faith-based organizations include:
- Eastern Catholic Re-Evangelization Center (E.C.R.C.) – Bloomfield Hills
- Chaldean Sisters Daughters of Mary Immaculate Conception – Farmington Hills
- Camp Chaldean – Brighton