DETROIT – A Detroit pastor got the red-carpet treatment from Saddam Hussein more than 20 years ago, plus thousands of dollars for his Christian church during a trip to Iraq.
The Rev. Jacob Yasso had a gift for Saddam in return – a key to the city of Detroit.
Saddam’s relationship with Detroit started in 1979, when Yasso of Detroit’s Chaldean Sacred Heart congratulated Saddam on his presidency. Yasso said his church then received $250,000.
Yasso said at that time, Saddam donated a lot of money to Chaldean churches around the world. “He’s very kind to Christians,” Yasso said.
Chaldeans are a Catholic group in predominantly Muslim Iraq. Among prominent Chaldeans is Iraq’s deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz.
In 1980, Yasso traveled with about two-dozen others to Iraq as a guest of the Iraqi government. He brought with him the key to the city, courtesy of then-Detroit Mayor Coleman Young.
Maryann Mahaffey, current city council president who was on the council in 1980, said it wouldn’t have been unusual at that time for the mayor to give Saddam a key to the city.