» 03/04/2008, 00.00
Kidnappers of Mosul bishop, raise the ransom
Yesterday evening, another telephone call, increasing the ransom and dictating conditions which “complicate the case”. Still no guarantees on the “wellbeing” of the bishop, abducted on February 29th. These latest developments raise fears that these are no ordinary criminals interested solely in money. Iraq’s premier sends a message to the Chaldean Patriarch.
Mosul (AsiaNews) – The men who have the fate of Msgr. Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul in their hands since February 29th last, have raised the ransom and dictated “political conditions” for his release, according to AsiaNews sources in Iraq, close to mediators who are negotiating his safe return. Late yesterday afternoon another phone call was made. The group which holds the bishop hostage, used Msgr. Rahoo’s mobile phone to communicate, but has still given no proof of his wellbeing. “It almost seems as if his release- anonymous sources in Mosul tell – is of secondary importance in their demands and the conditions which they have imposed greatly complicate matters, leading us to think that they are not just simple criminals interested in money”. Concern is increasing for the 67 year-old hostage who suffers ill health, for which he needs daily treatment.
In diocese throughout Iraq prayers are said around the clock for Msgr. Rahho’s safe return, while local TV’s continuously transmit appeals from Christian leaders and the Pope for his release. Ample space is also given to the condemnation of Shiite and Sunni leaders who have defined this kidnap as “against every principal of Islam”. Today the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al Maliki, specified that “attacking Christians means attacking the Iraqi people”. In a message sent to Chaldean Patriarch Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, the premier says that he has given instructions to “the minister for the Interior and the security forces in the province of Niniveh to work without rest to guarantee, as soon as possible, the return of the Archbishop of Mosul”. Card. Delly has just arrived in Baghdad from a recent visit to Amman.
The Archbishop was kidnapped last Friday after having celebrated the Way of the Cross in the Church of Holy Spirit Parish, on the eastern outskirts of the city. In the abduction three men, with the archbishop, were killed. A Sunni stronghold in the north of the country, Mosul is more or less under the full control of terrorists and religious militias. Just a few weeks ago, US forces in Iraq along with Baghdad decided to launch a massive military operation to “clean-up” the area. Ordinary citizens, from across the religious divide, are suffering the consequences of this difficult situation. But Christians are once again being faced with stark choices, leave their homes or; convert to Islam; pay the jizya – the tax imposed by the Koran on non Muslim subjects- or death.
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Death sentence for Ahmad Ali Ahmad, a member of al-Qaeda involved in the kidnapping and killing of the bishop of Mosul in March. Bishop Warduni and Archbishop Sako recall that the Church is inspired by forgiveness and reconciliation. But the event still remains shrouded in mystery.
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Iraqi sources warn: the city is in the hands of rigid Sunni fundamentalists, who aim for an Islamic State; Christians and Shiites, find no space while the “kidnapping industry” gathers pace. The family of a kidnapped Chaldean has already paid a ransom twice over, but there is still no trace of the hostage.
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The appeal was launched by the Archbishop of Kirkuk, 12 days on from Msgr. Rahoo’s abduction. To the Bishops and Christians of the world: “do not remain indifferent to this suffering, do not leave us alone to face this trial”. Amid increased fears, today in Kirkuk 15 Muslim leaders ask once again that the prelate be released.
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