Chaldeans are the indigenous people of Iraq who speak a form of Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus Christ. Chaldeans are Eastern Rite Catholic, led by the Patriarch of Babylon and affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. They 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.
Metro Detroit has the world’s largest population outside of Iraq, with an estimated 121,000 people. An estimated 200,000 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. The community feels a deep kinship to these victims of war and helps them in many ways through the Chaldean Community Foundation.
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.
Chaldeans differ from the majority of Iraqi in three major aspects: first, they are Christian rather than Muslim; second, their ancestral language is Aramaic rather than Arabic; and third, most prefer to identify themselves as Chaldeans rather than Arabs or Iraqis.