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A year later: ISIS victims celebrate Christmas and new American life

December 17, 2015
Christina Gray

At this time last year, the Aprims, an Assyrian Christian family who fled their home when ISIS captured the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, were bewildered strangers in a new country frightened they would be returned to the violence of their old one.

Taking refuge with relatives living in the South Bay, they worried about the family patriarch they left behind.

What a difference a year and the generosity and love of others has made.

This Christmas, the Aprims have a new American life and the freedom and safety to practice their Chaldean Catholic faith. The U.S. Embassy granted them asylum and work visas this summer. The three teenage children, already fluent in English, are thriving “A” students at public schools in the South Bay where they have been living with relatives since they arrived last year. Every member of the family has a job.

In a photo taken in front of the Christmas tree Dec. 10, the family’s smiles could reflect the knowledge that the father, who has been in hiding, will be able to join them in California next year.

Catholic San Francisco introduced the family to readers last year in a Dec. 3, 2014, story that detailed the efforts of the Marin Knights of Columbus and local Christians in raising more than $13,000 to benefit the family and other Christian refugees.

Joe Tassone, a global studies teacher at Marin Catholic High School and a Marin Knight, organized the event, attended by the family, with the goal of raising not just money but awareness of the scope of the Christian genocide in Iraq.

Tassone and Marin Catholic students, families, faculty and staff raised an additional $10,000 in a separate fundraising effort.

“The Aprims are an example of how refugees fleeing the most brutal militants in the world need help until they are able to stand on their two feet and contribute to society,” said Margaret Petros, executive director of Mothers Against Murder and a longtime victims’ advocate.

Petros, a native of the same region as the Aprim family, shepherded them through the laborious asylum process, with continuous support from local Catholics.

“This beautiful family is doing great,” she said. “The right support given at the right time made all the difference in the world.”

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