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.