Angst over two missing priests in Mosul, captors suspend contacts
Captors have ceased all contacts after the Church said it could not pay the ransom demanded for Fathers Ishoa and Afas. Christians are praying but in Baghdad threats continue. On the border, the Turkish army strikes at a Christian village in Kurdistan.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – Iraqi Christians are concerned and anxious both at home and abroad. For more than 24 hours there have been no contacts with the people who abducted two Syro-Catholic priests last Saturday in Mosul, this according to Church sources in the Syro-Catholic diocese who spoke to AsiaNews. From Baghdad reports about threats against Christians continue as confrontation between Kurds and Turkey continue along the border, affecting a Christian village.

The unknown captors who took Fr Mazen Ishoa, 35, and Fr Pius Afas, 60, demanded a million dollar ransom from Mgr Basile George Casmoussa for their liberation. According to sources, the prelate, who was also kidnapped and released two years ago, “told them that he did not have that kind of money and they hung up. Since then we have had no news.”

“We Christians continue to pray; it is only thing we can do. But we are very afraid and worried about the lack of information about the fate of our two priests,” sources said.

As a result of the war Mosul’s Syro-Catholic community dropped to about 300 families with three priests ministering to their needs.

Most Iraqi Christians feel they have been abandoned by the world. “Only the Pope has remembered us,” some Syro-Catholics lay people and clergymen told AsiaNews.

Fathers Ishoa and Afas are the latest example of the threat that hangs over Iraq’s Christians. Ankawa.com reports that recently 11Christian families have been forced out of Baghdad as a result of intimidation. Some have been visited by mostly Shia militiamen who, upon learning that some young men had emigrated, went to the father to accuse the son: “Your son is a traitor. He is working for the Americans. When he comes back, tell him to come to our office.”

The net result has been that the father was forced to tell the son not to come back, packed up himself and took the entire family to the north or to neighbouring countries.

In the capital Christians admit to complete “helplessness” vis-à-vis such threats and abuse.

“We are the only community that has not set up its own militia,” they say. “At present in Iraq only violence and those who are armed win; Christians scare no one. The government does not exist. In some cases involving Shiites or Sunnis investigations are formally launched but for us no one could be bothered.”

And in Kurdistan, which was a haven of peace and a refuge for internally displaced people, things are getting worse.

Turkey is putting pressure on the border to strike at Kurdish rebels.

On Sunday the Turkish army announced it bombed an area along Iraq’s northern border in retaliation against attacks by fighters for the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) who had infiltrated Iraqi Kurdistan. The village that was hit, Enishke, is Christian.

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