Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Iraqi Christians and immigration

When I met Maryam last spring, she was desperate. "Please help me get out of here," she pleaded. She was continually harassed, she told me, by her new neighbours, rural Shia Muslims who had come to Karradeh from the south after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. "They tell me I’m a bad woman, and that I will go to hell."
But as Maryam tearfully blurted out her story of living alone as a virtual shut-in, terrorized by local militias and longing to join family members abroad, she already seemed to be in hell.

The above is from Hadani Ditmars' "The suffering of Iraq's Christians" (Globe and Mail). Ditmars explains Maryam had left Iraq for Syria due to the violence but money issues ("her meagre United Nations stipend") forced her to return to Baghdad where she found the violence had neither vanished nor merely diminished. AP reports that Berlin's Interior Minister Ehrhart Koerting issued a call today for Germany to provide refuge to 2,500 Iraqi Christians. The current wave of violence targeting Iraqi Christians -- one in a long line of waves -- appears to have begun with the October 31st assault on Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation Church. Father John Boyle (Caritas in Veritate) posts a letter from friends in Iraq who were in the church during the attack:

The terrorists were in the Church from about 5 pm until 11 pm when their weapons ran out and they began to blow themselves up. They Iraqi Security forces were all the while standing outside paralysed with fear and confusion but by about 10 pm the security forces attacked the Church with huge fire power and no one knows how many innocent people they killed when they stormed the Church but by then most of the terrorist were already dead and they had run out of weapons to use.
At about 1 am the army was sure that all of the terrorist were dead and that they had rescued any of the people who were still alive inside the Church.
One army officer described the scene as follows; “I entered the Church and can hear loud screams of women and children but I could not see them because of the intense smoke, I then slipped and noticed that I slipped in a pool of blood just then I was hit by the most awful smell, it was a smell that I had become familiar with but it was nevertheless awful it was the terrible stench of death. I saw body parts, limbs and many bodies piled up at the entrance. The people there looked like they had been dead for sometime as their bodies had become quite stiff when we tried to move them”.

The link will also provide you with photos of the violence including the dead (and one of the two priests killed -- after he was killed; the one who was shot in the back of the head execution style).

Moving over to the topic of Hotaru Ferschke, we'll note this -- for background -- from the October 14, 2009 snapshot:

Turning to the US where an woman whose husband was killed serving in the Iraq War may have some good news for herself and their son. Dropping back to the September 25th snapshot, "While some veterans go homeless, efforts are made to deport the spouses of some deceased veterans. Most recently, the September 17th snapshot, we noted Kristin M. Hall (AP) report Hotaru Ferschke, a military widow. Her husband, Sgt. Michael Ferschke, died serving in Iraq August 10, 2008. They had tried to have children for some time and when they learned she was pregnant, he was already in Iraq so they got married by proxy and the US military recognizes the marriage but the US Immigration and Naturalization Service plays dumb. She and their son Michael "Mikey" Ferschke III, are now facing deportation. INS is stating that the proxy marriage could be a fake because it wasn't consumated. Consumated? He remained in Iraq and they're not counting their long relationship prior to the proxy marriage. Her mother-in-law, Robin Ferschke told Hall, 'She's like my daughter. I know my child chose the perfect wife and mother of his child'."

Chiyomi Sumida and Charlie Reed (Stars and Stripes) report
that the House passed an ammendment yesterday "in response to the case of Hotaru Ferschke". Rick Maze (Navy Times) adds: "It is called the Marine Sgt. Michael H. Ferschke Jr. Memorial Act, named for a sergeant who discovered just as he was deploying to Iraq that his Japanese girlfriend, Hota, was pregnant. The couple married in a ceremony conducted over the telephone. About one month later, Ferschke was killed. One month after that, the child, Michael III, was born, according to [John] Conyers. The Defense Department recognized the marriage, paying death benefits to the widow, but the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration law, did not, said Rep. John Duncan Jr., R-Tenn., the chief sponsor of the bill." WBIR offers a text and video report here. Robert Norris (Daily Times) speaks with the mother of the late Sgt Michael Ferschke:

On Saturday, Robin Ferschke watched on a computer monitor as Mikey, 14 time zones away, celebrated the birthday of his late father.
"He had a piece of daddy's cake. They put a candle in it, and he blew it out."
Now she can only hope that the U.S. Senate will pass its version of the Marine Sergeant Michael H. Ferschke, Jr. Memorial Act.
Robin Ferschke said she is concerned because she knows that, because of Senate rules, just one Senator could block passage of the act.
"We're hopeful, but we're so afraid to be so hopeful."

The following community sites -- plus wowOwow, and The Diane Rehm Show -- updated last night:

Lameduck session or not, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee continues addressing issues that matter to so many Americans. At the page, you can find the latest video, Senator Tom Harkin speaking on "Paycheck Fairness Act Makes Equal Pay Act Meaningful."

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oh boy it never ends