01/16/2009, 00.00
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Msgr. Sako: Bagradis case, a kidnap with a tragic ending

This is how the archbishop of Kirkuk explains the murder of the man shot to death yesterday in Mosul. The Christian community is the main target for abductions because “it does not respond to violence with revenge”. The prelate launches an appeal “for unity” even at a political level and anticipates the days for the next Synod of Iraqi Bishops: the 12th of May Erbil.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – “It is a case of a kidnap with a tragic ending”.  This is how msgr. Louis Sako, Archbishop of Kirkuk comments on the murder of 36 year-old printing press employee Chourik Bagrad, whose body was found yesterday in the eastern al-Bakr district of  Mosul.

“The tried to kidnap him but he put up a fight – confirms the prelate – after a brief struggle, the kidnappers pulled a gun and shot him in the head”.  Msgr. Sako underlines that it is not a case of “religious violence: religion has nothing to do with it.  These are criminal gangs specialised in extorting money from kidnappings”.  A similar case to that of the Christian, took place in Mosul on New Years Eve, saw the abductee tortured and then released after 50 thousand dollars in ransom was paid.  

Christians are the main target for these kidnappers because what differentiates them from the Arabs and the Kurds is that they are an unprotected community.  “The Christian community – continues the archbishop of Kirkuk – is a soft target because they have less protection and the relatives do not seek revenge for violent attacks against their families.  There is no ‘vendetta’; that is why these gangs see them as a sitting target for their criminal activities”.

Msgr. Sako confirms that every day life is difficult in Mosul.  Chourik Bagrad, is the most recent victim of the violence, killed in “the same city district as Fr. Ragheed and Msgr. Rahho”.  Despite everything however, he insists that we must not give in to the logic of fear and violence, but stay to rebuild Iraq and a new future”.  To this ends Msgr launches a challenge to the government and Christian community: “I ask the government to defend not only Christians but all Iraqi citizens, without distinction, from the violence.  And I ask the Christian community not to give up on the land of it’s’ birth and to remain united”.

For the Archbishop of Kirkuk, “unity” remains the main stumbling block and he does not hold back on his criticism of Christian politicians who are divided among themselves and fail to represent the common good.  Elections are slated for the end of January, but still there is no sign of “an outstanding candidate” or a “shared political project capable of giving hope to the community”.  “Christians are divided – he explains – each part protecting its own interests to the detriment of the common good. In doing so they are headed for certain defeat.  Even the Church must show unity and ask the parties, tribes and government to protect the Christian community, which remains a minority in this land and has no recourse to arms or militias to defend itself. Fragmentation, be it political or religious, saps strength and fails to protect the interest of our people”.

Msgr. Louis Sako, who will be in Rome from January 21st for the Ad Limina visit of the Iraqi bishops, has also revealed the date of the next Iraqi Synod.  Foreseen originally for the end of January it has been postponed until May 12th in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, in the north of the country. (DS)


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