Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Detroit" In Arabic

When we St. John's pilgrims visit the Holy Land in January, one of the questions we'll explore is where all the Arab Christians have gone, since they now comprise under 2% of the population of Israel and the West Bank. One of the answers: Southeastern Michigan, where, in my home town of Detroit and its suburbs and beyond, at least 200,000 Arab-Americans live, according to "Time." But rest easy, Newt -- they're not all Muslims!
The story of Arab Detroit is more complex than the caricatures. Middle Eastern immigrants didn't arrive just yesterday, or from just one place. The community has been a long time coming into its own version of the promised land. Henry Ford recruited thousands of Lebanese, Yemenis and others from the splinters of the Ottoman empire to Dearborn to work in his giant River Rouge complex, giving Middle Easterners their first foothold in the area. Not all were Arab. And in contrast to the stereotype, the majority of local Middle Easterners are not Muslim but Christian, led by an early wave of Iraqi Catholics known as Chaldeans, some of whom fled Muslim persecution. Others were Christians and Druze from Lebanon. More recent times have brought an increase in Muslim immigrants displaced by war and seeking education and economic opportunity.

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