It was one of the great joys of my time at JP Catholic to attend the ordination ceremony of now Fr. Ankido Sipo and Fr. Simon Esshaki (pictured in front row). Fathers Sipo and Esshaki have received their theological formation at JP Catholic through the Chaldean Seminary of Mar Abba the Great here in San Diego.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the Chaldean Rite, it is one of the various eastern rites of the Catholic Church, one that traces its origins to very early in Church history.
Due to the instability in the region, Bishop Sarhad Jammo of the Catholic Chaldean Diocese of St. Peter the Apostle (located here in San Diego) opened the first Chaldean Seminary outside of Iraq six years ago (Mar Abba the Great); Fr. Sipo and Fr. Esshaki are the first seminarians to be ordained, and two of their classmates are about to be ordained priests this August (Deacons David Stephen and Royal Hannosh).
The ordination of these four excellent young men is particularly significant considering the current situation of the Chaldean people, for as many of you may know, many Chaldean Catholics living in northern Iraq have been either forced out of the region or killed by the members of the Islamic State. In fact, the Arabic "N" (for "Nazarene") that has now become a symbol for Christian solidarity in persecution, is the symbol that was placed on many Chaldean doors by the Islamic State.
While this story did garner some media attention at times last year, the life and faith of Chaldeans remains largely unknown not only to the wider world, but even to other Christians. It is my hope that this will soon change, both through the priestly work of our students noted above and through a new documentary being produced here at JP Catholic entitled "The War Among Us."
This documentary originally emerged out of my philosophy of God class last winter, during which I encouraged media students to consider developing either documentaries or movie scripts that demonstrate the role that both philosophy and theology play in our contemporary world.
Along these lines, I showed the class a documentary produced by Vice News on the Islamic State, and this documentary inspired one of our finest media students, Lisa Spehar, to develop a documentary about the Chaldeans' relationship to Islam, and in particular, their experience of the rise of the Islamic State.
While the documentary has yet to be produced, it is now in "launch" phase, which includes a five minute trailer, produced for the purpose of raising funds for production.
Here is the website for the documentary: http://www.thewaramongus.com/
In the trailer, the four Chaldeans who are being interviewed are Frs. Sipo and Esshaki, and as well as Deacons Stephen and Hannosh, along with background music taken from the Chaldean liturgy as sung by one of our students, Olivia Nelson.
Please take a look, and if possible, give to the project, it is a story that needs to be told.