Skip to comments.Christian Iraqi: American Is Who I Became
Posted on 01/03/2014 6:17:25 PM PST by robowombat
Christian Iraqi: American Is Who I Became
By John Jessup CBN News Washington Correspondent Friday, January 03, 2014
WASHINGTON -- In Iraq, churches are under attack from Islamic radicals, causing many Iraqi Christians to flee their homeland.
One Iraqi Christian fled to America, but her heart remains with her persecuted brothers and sisters.
"I was born in a Catholic hospital and I came after two boys," Aseel Albana, a naturalized U.S. citizen, told CBN News.
Albana has always been bright and positive. But unlike her personality, many of her childhood memories were scarred by the dark clouds of war.
"I was very determined to--I needed to get away. I just couldn't see any future for myself," she said.
She and her family fled Baghdad in 1991 to escape what seemed like endless fighting.
She was 10 years old when the nearly eight year Iran-Iraq war started, and 19 when U.S. troops launched Operation Desert Storm.
After a month seeking refuge in Jordan, the young daughter convinced her dad to take her to a country she'd always dreamt of visiting.
"I begged my father. I said, 'Dad, please let's just go to the American embassy. Let's just try. It was like a dream to me: liberty and freedom of expression. I didn't grow up with that so I really wanted it," Albana said.
She and her father both had round-trip tickets to visit relatives in Lexington, Ky., where her aunt had long-term plans for Albana that didn't include returning to the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein.
"She told my father, 'This girl -- I will never ever let her leave back with you!' My father was like, 'What are you talking about? She's my daughter,'" Albana recalled.
Albana's aunt helped her get into the University of Kentucky's architecture program as a fifth year student.
She graduated, started working in design, and has been in the United States ever since feeling more American as time went by.
"Being Iraqi is who I am, who I've been. Being American, on the other hand, is who I became -- who I grew into," Albana explained.
"It's always been a good feeling. It's a feeling of growing and changing to the better," she continued.
Recently, on the 222nd anniversary of the U.S. Bill of Rights, she took an oath and became an American citizen under the gaze of the founding documents at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
"This country is wonderful in opening its door to immigrants. And very often you come and you rush through the process. For me it was more of a growing experience. So, today it was more like I'm sealing the deal," she said.
While still hopeful, one area where the light has dimmed hits close to home: the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East.
"Honestly, I don't see a future. I think it doesn't look good," she said.
Albana is an Iraqi Christian home to one of the world's oldest Christians populations.
"It's considered a very honest and fair community and they gave a lot to Iraq -- to the country. So, it is a very sad turning point in Iraq," she added.
But after the 2003 war, Christians in Iraq became an easy target, frequently persecuted, tortured, or killed.
In the last 10 years, out of the more than 1 million Christians who once called Iraq home, only about a third are left with more fleeing daily.
"There's just no doubt that ancient and historic Christian communities are threatened as never before," Katrina Lantos Swett, and Iran pastor, said. Swett frequently testifies on Capitol Hill about religious freedom around the world.
The story is the same in Syria and in Egypt, where civil unrest has made it harder for ancient Christian communities to survive.
With Middle East Christians on the verge of extinction, human rights advocates say it's time for Christians in America to stand up for their fellow believers.
"One of the most powerful things that individual communities, church communities, and people as individuals can do is to reach out to their member of Congress and say, 'You know what: this is a top priority with me and I want to know what you are doing about it,'" Swett said.
For Albana, she said she hopes others can find a path to peace, freedom, and personal growth similar to the road she's taken.