Just who are the Chaldeans, and what are they doing in Michigan?
If the reader knows what the biblical world map looked like and where these places are today, he or she will realize the Chaldeans are from present-day Iraq. Sengstock discusses this and the Chaldeans immigration to the United States in the1890s and 1900s. They came mostly to Detroit, Michigan, and Sengstock discusses why. The Chaldeans do not consider themselves to be Arab; they are mostly not Muslims but Catholic Christians in union with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Of the six percent of the Christians in Iraq, the Chaldeans are the largest group. The Chaldean community in Detroit who attend church was estimated in 2003 to be around 120,000. There are smaller Chaldean communities in other parts of the United States
Stengstock discusses not only the religion of the Chaldeans but also their culture and economy. For many decades these three - religion, culture, and economics - were intertwined in the Chaldean community, where livings were made by owning or being involved in grocery markets. Usually these were - and still are - family operations. The Chaldeans would not marry outside of their group. Like other immigrants, the Chaldeans helped their relatives to leave present-day Iraq and come to America to find a better life.
The Chaldean community came under suspicion during the terrorist attacks of 9-11 and then the Iraq War because they originate from Iraq, although they really do not want to be connected with the Arab Iraqis, especially Saddam Hussein. Life for Chaldeans still in Iraq is not safe since Muslim fundamentalists and terrorists connected with Al-Qaeda want a Muslim state set up in Iraq which would barely tolerate non-Muslims.
Sengstock examines how the Chaldean-American community is changing and becoming more Americanized, as other immigrants have. They want to become less known for connections with Iraq or Arabs; they want to be Americans and seen as such. Many do not know the Chaldean language of their recent ancestors or even living elders. Although some Chaldean is still used in the Church, many Chaldean Catholic churches look more like Roman Catholic churches. Sengstock points out that this might pose a threat to the continued existence of the Chaldean Catholic Church in the United States if it continues to modify itself along Roman Catholic lines.
Mary C. Sengstock is a professor of sociology at Wayne State University in Detroit. She is the author of Chaldean-Americans: Changing Conceptions of Ethnic Identity (1998). She provides many illustrations, a few maps, endnotes, a bibliography, Chaldean food recipes, and Chaldean organizations and contacts in this book. Chaldeans in Michiganis short, but full of interesting information on this minority group with biblical connections. This book is part of the Discovering the Peoples of Michigan series, and definitely worth reading.