Mosul, Iraq - Another Chaldean Catholic priest and three church deacons were gunned down in Mosul, Iraq, on Sunday, June 3rd. Father Ragheed Ganni and three deacons from his parish-- Basman Yousef Daud, Wahid Hanna Isho, Gassan Isam Bidawed-- were slain after celebrating the Eucharistic liturgy on Sunday.
Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly referred to the attack as “a crime against God.”
As the young priest and three deacons left the church their car was stopped by group of armed gunmen. Pointing their weapons in the car they slaughtered the four Catholics then rigged the car to explode should anyone attempt to remove the dead bodies. The horrific site remained for several hours until a police bomb-squad defused the devices.
Fr. Ganni, aged 35, was a frequent visitor to Ireland where he worked at Lough Derg shrine in Donegal, was also an engineer. He served as the rector of the Irish College, Mgr Liam Bergin, said Fr Ganni always knew he was working in a dangerous place but had insisted that he belonged in Iraq where he often recalled that God had called Abraham.
Fr. Ganni is remembered at the Irish College in Rome, where he trained for the priesthood "as an exceptionally outgoing person, the sort of person that if you meet once you remember." "Even when he had just arrived and couldn't speak English or Italian he still managed to communicate with people here at the college" the rector Liam Bergin said.
Phone calls and emails of condolence have been flooding in from those who knew the 35 year old priest. “This tragic violence has created ripples far and wide. Even the Irish president who was in Rome at Sunday's canonization had met Fr. Ganni in Ireland and remembered him” Bergin continued.
During his seminary studies Ganni couldn't return to Iraq during the holidays so he often spent that time in Ireland. For that connection but also for his extrovert nature he was nicknamed “Paddy the Iraqi”. He had recently been given permission by his bishop to come to Rome to study for a doctorate in ecumenism.
“I spoke to him a week ago” said Bergin, noting that the young Chaldean priest was conscious of the dangers he faced in Iraq, the risks that non-Muslims could be “seen as friends or collaborators of the invading forces” but he also felt that “as a priest he would be less likely to suffer than the faithful.”
In a telegram on Monday to the Chaldean Bishop of Mosul, the Vatican said that Pope Benedict XVI was "deeply saddened to learn of the senseless killing of Ragheed Aziz Ganni, and subdeacons Basman Yousef Daoud, Ghasan Bidawid and Wadid Hanna."
"He [the Pope] prays that their costly sacrifice will inspire in the hearts of all men and women of good will a renewed resolve to reject the ways of hatred and violence" the statement continued.
Fr. Ganni is survived by his parents in Mosul and at least one sibling, a sister who fled to Australia because of the war in Iraq. This morning in Rome, President Mary McAleese paid tribute to Father Ganni whom she had met at Lough Derg.
Archbishop Sean Brady, who celebrated mass to inaugurate a chapel at the Irish Embassy to the Holy See, said the Irish College community was deeply shocked by the news of the deaths. He said Fr Ganni had told him that his duties as a priest were to the Iraqi people in their hour of need.
The Church of the Holy Spirit where Fr. Ganni and the deacons served the Iraqi community, The church known for feeding the hungry, taking in orphaned children, and assisting widows had been bombed and vandalized in the past. Fr. Ganni had been threatened by Islamic militants. The three deacons had been accompanying the priest constantly, hoping to protect him.
Genocide against Christians continues as the indigenous people of Iraq are being hunted down by radical Islamists, all the while the Maliki government turns a blinds eye. The systematic butchering of Christians in Iraq remains unfettered.
Islam grows in anger and hatred as its ugly side is revealed and foolish followers seek to kill fathers, mothers, and young children directed by religious leaders. The sheik of the Al-Noor mosque in Dora, Hatem Al-Razaq, has asked his followers to kill the Christians or force them to pay Jizya, an Islamic penalty levied against Christians and Jews.
Hatem Al-Razaq, visited Christian families instructing them to pay 250,000 Iraqi dinars, saying this sum is the jizya because "you are not Muslims." Families that cannot pay this sum are told to send one family member to the mosque on Friday to announce their conversion to Islam. Families who refuse to do this must leave their homes immediately and not take any of their belongings with them because "your properties belong to the mosque."
Al-Razaq’s death warning is a form of Islamic charity. Families that do not leave and do not convert are threatened with death and any man, woman, or child that refuses is murdered. Those not blinded by religious leaders are also put on notice.
European Christian Deacon Fazel Barouq, a former Imam who converted to Christianity due to the hate and violence that Islam perpetuates. “My Islamic brothers and sisters who remain indifferent to what is happening in the name of their religion will also come to learn there is no place for them.” Barouq, was forced by other Imams to encourage his congregation to kill infidels. Refusing to lead others to murder he sought refuge with other Imams who also turned against him forcing him and his extended family to flee the country. “It is only a matter of time before Islamic leaders tell their own people to kill or be killed by their own brothers and sisters. This is no true faith but the work of evil.”
“My Islamic brothers and sisters must face two choices. Admit what they are being taught is wrong or kill others. Sometimes it is easier to turn your anger outwards than inwards. To mask their cowardice of living a fraudulent faith they cling to what they believe is courage and kill innocent men, women, and children. To have lived a life under false pretenses is a heavy burden. Sadly, with the death of innocent people that burden will only become heavier. The burden of such hate can only be lifted with Love,” Barouq says.
On May 31, Islamists attacked the convent of the Chaldean-rite Sacred Heart sisters in Baghdad, Iraq. The Archangel Raphael convent is home to two Sacred Heart sisters.
Christians in Iraq have been the objects of a nationwide campaign of intimidation, forcing millions of Christians, according to a recent UN report to leave Iraq for safety in neighboring lands.
Nevertheless Iraqi-Christians continue to show love to their Islamic persecutors. “My former faith teaches only hatred and how we are victims, oppressed by others. It is our Islamic leaders who are oppressing us and our Islamic governments that make us victim. I could not longer live the lie. Christians teach love and forgiveness. Islam teaches hate and vengeance,” Barouq comments.
Leaders of the Chaldean Church in Iraq will gather for a weeklong synod and the issue of security in that war-torn land will be at the forefront of the prelates' discussions. The meeting begins Friday in al Qosh, formerly the ancient city of Nineveh.
Though the last synod was held in Rome for security reasons, this year, the bishops wanted to stay in Iraq. "Despite security concerns, the patriarch and bishops chose to hold the synod on national soil to send a strong signal of solidarity to the entire community, to let them know that we are present and that their lives are dear to us," Monsignor Philip Najim, the procurator for the Chaldean Church to the Holy See said.
"The issue of the security of the community, halved by forced emigration, will be at the heart of the synod discussions," Monsignor Najim added. He said other topics for discussion will include the future of Babel College, the only faculty of theology in the country, which was recently transferred to the capital of Kurdistan, and the conditions of dioceses in Iraq and the entire Middle East.
Bishops from the Chaldean diaspora in the United States, Canada, Australia and Lebanon will also attend, as will Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the apostolic nuncio to Iraq.