The word “contour” suggests a boundary; an outline or an edge. It’s used in the context of everything from wine, to maps to geometry. The contours that define Chaldeans are easily identified: God, family, community. But these contours are then framed, supported and validated by community institutions that exist to protect and build up these values. In my view, these institutions are under constant attack—often by the forces of modernity, materialism and apathy.
The Chaldean Church, by comparative standards of religious groups, is thriving. It is inarguable that the hub of the world-wide Chaldean Church is now Detroit, Michigan. For various and sundry reasons, this fact is not readily or publicly admitted. Yet, most of this strength and growth in the Chaldean Church has been spurred on by immigration. According to Church officials, only about 15% of the Michigan Chaldean population are considered active in the Church. Of those that are active, many are critical of the Church or some of its components. While this is better than other Christian congregations, it is still a sad commentary.
Similarly, the institution of family in our community is under attack by the “ghettoization” of our younger generation. Fast money, marijuana money, the idea that bigger and more is better seems to predominate. The rise of wealth in the community has been a tremendously positive development. There are great success stories that involve years of hard work and determination. We have covered may of those stories in these pages. But there is another side that has come with that wealth creation. Materialism, financial competitiveness and jealously have created in the community what I would describe as one big, gigantic rat race. The notion of stepping into one’s parent’s lifestyles while still in the early twenties is the goal for too many. At risk is sense of the greater world, the idea of charity, any sense of proportion or priority. It feels like it is possible that we have gone backwards in this regard.
Organizations such as Shenandoah, the Chaldean American Chamber and Chaldean Community Foundation and the Chaldean American Ladies of Charity have enjoyed tremendous success in the last decade. Their success derives from their ability to execute on their mission and provide value. In many cases, their existence predates this new generation of wealth. However, like the Church, their membership represents only a fraction of the community. At times, these organizations have alternative agendas and individual egos that clash with each other. This creates an opening for those that do not understand the importance of community organizations to become critical.
What is clear is that there is a portion of our millennial generation that does not fully understand the struggle and sacrifice that preceded their adult lives. They were born into wealth and this has clouded their vision. Vision is a prerequisite to leadership. Without vision, there is either no leadership or the wrong leadership.
I remain confident, however, that there is a portion of this generation that already understands or will come to understand the notion of community. It will be these people that will become the vanguards of the contours of our community.