05/21/2007, 00.00
IRAQ
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”High” ransom demanded for Priest kidnapped in Baghdad

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.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – “They are asking for a very, very high ransom” Msgr Shlemon Warduni informs AsiaNews of the latest developments regarding the plight of Chaldean Priest, Fr. Nawzat P. Hanna, kidnapped May 19th in Baghdad.  The Chaldean auxiliary bishop in the capital also firmly denies rumours that the parish priest was freed yesterday.

 

 “P. Nawzat is still in the hands of his abductors – refers the worried prelate – we have telephone contact with them, and we have been assured of our priest’s “good health””.  Then, in an open appeal “to the entire world”, Msgr Warduni urges: “Let us pray that God illuminate the hearts of these men and that Fr. Nawzat may come home safe and sound”.

 

Paris priest in Mar Pithion, in the Baladiyat neighbourhood, Fr. Nawzat was leaving the home of a sick parishioner when he was stopped by people who “were waiting for him”.  The kidnappers immediately established contact with the Chaldean Patriarcate in Baghdad to demand a ransom.

 

Saturday’s kidnapping is part of a wider operation of intimidation and violence directed at the capital’s Christian community, against whom fundamentalists are carrying out a “door to door”, neighbourhood by neighbourhood campaign of ethnic cleansing.  In the historic Christian quarter of Dora, the majority of the Churches are now closed, families have fled and important Catholic institutions have been moved northwards and after the numerous abductions of religious, the Patriarchate has been forced to transfer many of them abroad. In an interview with Ankawa.com, p. Timathaus Alqas Isha, parish priest of Mart Shmoni (an ancient eastern Assyrian Church) in Dora tells that one NGO is carrying out a census on the families in the area and inviting them not to flee, however without offering the man alternative to the violence which shadows them from street to street.  The priest instead has appealed to those who live in areas considered safe to temporarily host families forced to flee.

 

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