» 05/19/2007, 00.00
A Chaldean priest is kidnapped in Baghdad
Fr. Nawzat P. Hanna, parish priest of Mar Pithion, was abducted this morning in the capital’s al-Baladiyat quarter. Baghdad’s auxiliary bishop: “We will pray for his immediate release, but we will not submit to fear”. Local Christians warn of systematic plan by terrorists to “clean-up” the city quarter by quarter.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Yet another Chaldean priest was kidnapped this morning in Baghdad. He is Fr. Nawzat P. Hanna, parish priest of Mar Pithion, from the Baladiyat quarter. Confirmation of the abduction reached AsiaNews, via Msgr. Shlemon Warduni, Chaldean auxiliary bishop in the capital, who has invited Catholics to “pray for Fr. Nawzat’s immediate release”. The abductors have already made contact with the Chaldean Patriarchate, but as of yet there is no further news.
The priest was leaving the house of an ill parishioner, when he was stopped by a group of persons who had been waiting for him, says the bishop. Msgr. Warduni is convinced that a motive for ransom is behind the abduction, but among Baghdad’s faithful the rumour has spread that this morning’s sequester is in response to the Patriarch and bishops recent denouncements of persecution against the Christian community there. “By kidnapping another priest – anonymous sources tell AsiaNews – the terrorists kill two birds with one stone: they get rich and at the same time force the Patriarch to transfer him abroad, thus giving the whole community a very strong message”.
In the meantime in the capital the witch-hunt against Christians continues. It has emerged, from what has been reported to AsiaNews, that the persecution is being carried out according to a well studied plan, quarter by quarter across the city. After Dora, Al-Baya’a, al-Thurat and al-Saydia, now it’s the turn of al-Habibia and al-Baladiyat. Those groups who subscribe to the “Islamic state in Iraq” are putting up posters which demand women wear the veil and distributing pamphlets imposing protection taxes on Christians. “They use the same technique on each and every quarter – locals tell – soon they will begin to call house to house to sequester all our possessions”. “The coalition and Iraqi forces are present on the round in these neighbourhoods – they lament – they can see what’s going on, but they refuse to get involved”. Thus many make the decision to leave their homes, packing their most precious belongings in cases and seeking refuge in those few Churches which are still open. But most are already full to capacity, forcing many families to live and sleep on the streets.
“We cannot go on living like this – affirms Msgr. Warduni – its inhuman, it’s humiliating”. And he adds “but we will not be bowed by fear, we will continue to make our voice heard and to denounce this tragedy which is the Iraqi people and above all the Iraqi Christian’s daily reality”.
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Msgr. Warduni confirms: “we are in constant contact with his abductors, and we are praying for his release”. Rumours, spread yesterday, of Fr Nawzat’s release are quashed. The priest is now in his third day of captivity. Meanwhile the Christian exodus from the capital continues: an NGO in Dora counts the remaining families and urges then not to flee.
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Fr. Nawzat P. Hanna was released yesterday after three days in captivity. Currently he is in safe keeping in the capital, but he bares marks of having been beaten. Baghdad’s auxiliary bishop: “Let u spray that these episodes do not happen again and that our priest finds the courage to remain in Iraq, to serve his Church”.
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