03/01/2018, 17.14

Archbishop of Kirkuk remembers Mgr Rahho’s martyrdom, an example of faith for Iraqi Christians

The Chaldean Church is marking the tenth anniversary of the abduction of the Archbishop of Mosul, who died a few days afterwards in the hands of his kidnappers. Recognising the prelate’s sacrifice shows “the rootedness of Christians” in Iraq. Yet, the spilling of blood continues with the death of a Christian father of two in Baghdad.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – The Church in Iraq is committed to "recognising the martyrdom" of the archbishop of Mosul, Mgr Paul Faraj Rahho, and, along with him, of the "many Christian victims" who "gave their lives to defend their faith", said Mgr Yousif Thoma Mirkis, archbishop of Kirkuk, exactly ten years to the day since the prelate was abducted, on 29 February 2008, two weeks before his death on 13 March.

"We must get involved so that the Church acknowledges this and other sacrifices of human lives," Archbishop Mirkis said. In view of this, "We are working on a file to present to the Congregation for the causes of the saints.”

“For us Iraqi Christians, it is important that his death be remembered, because it is testimony to the rootedness of Christians in this land. Despite Daesh (Islamic State), despite the threats of conversion or death, we want to be an example of faith and belonging" to Iraq.

At present, Iraq’s Chaldean community is marking the disappearance of Mgr Rahho, who died in captivity. As he left church, he was abducted by gunmen who shot at his car's tires, killing the driver and two of his companions. The body was found two weeks later, near an abandoned cemetery in Mosul’s Karama District.

The prelate is remembered as a "modest and simple man", who loved irony and his city. This bond pushed him to stay despite threats and the bombing, in 2004, of the Chaldean district of Shifa.

In 2007, a year before his death, the Chaldean community grieved for the martyrdom of Fr Ragheed Ganni, who was killed along with three other Chaldeans.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, Iraqi politicians like then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Christian as well as Sunni and Shia Muslim clerics, the Council of the Churches of the Middle East are but some of those who expressed deep condolences at the time of his disappearance.

During his captivity, the then pontiff appealed to the kidnappers three times, asking them to free the prelate who had heart problems and was in need of constant care.

Yet, the sacrifices Iraqi Christians have made, many of whom died for their faith, is a tragedy that continues today.

Recently, Baghdad’s Chaldean community mourned the death of a 27-year-old Christian man, Samer Jajjo, who was killed in cold blood by a group of gunmen Sunday morning in front of his home in the Naeeriya District. The married father of two had just left for work in a paint shop near the Shorja market.

In spite of fears and violence, the archbishop of Kirkuk urges the Iraqi Christian community to "keep courage and hope alive " by resisting violence "in the name of the Gospel".

Recently, Mgr Mirkis visited Mosul, where he met a group of Christian and Muslim university students whom he hosted in his diocese during the city’s occupation by the Islamic State.

The city bears the "signs of war", the prelate noted, and the "toll from the devastation" is heavy. However, the local administration and residents "are making great efforts to rebuild". Even among Muslims there is a desire to start again "renewing plans to live together with Christians". (DS)

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