Monday, January 2, 2012

Burmese are newest immigrants to settle in Dubuque Archdiocese

WATERLOO, Iowa (CNS) -- The newest group of Catholic immigrants to come to the Dubuque Archdiocese won't take for granted the opportunity to attend Mass in public. Since May 2010, more than 200 refugees from Myanmar (also known as Burma) have moved to Waterloo and its surrounding areas. They are being recruited to work at the Tyson Fresh Meats packaging plant. Many of them are Christians -- Catholic or Baptist -- who came to America as refugees fleeing government oppression. "On Sunday, we wanted to go to church," said John Lazum, 40, one of the refugees. "They didn't allow us. They had forced labor camps." The father of six lived for years under a military regime, which was hostile to ethnic, racial and religious minorities in a society of mostly Buddhists or atheists. Lazum, his wife and their children spent seven years in a Malaysian refugee camp before being authorized to enter the United States about a year and a half ago. Like many of the newcomers in Waterloo, they settled in other American cities first before coming to Iowa. The Lazum family was in Louisville, Ky., before coming to Waterloo a few months ago. They are now members of Sacred Heart Parish with about 200 other Burmese. That parish and school have been an essential lifeline for the immigrants. "We love America because America has freedom to go to school or work," Lazum said.

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