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Convert or Die! Iraqi Christians Under Fatwa of Death
By Guest Reporter :: Wednesday, April 18, 2007 :: 47613 Views :: Law & Order, Government & Society

Baghdad, IRAQ – “Get rid of the cross or we will burn your Churches.” This is the threat aimed at the Chaldean Church of Sts Peter and Paul, located in the ancient Christian quarter of Baghdad, Dora. Local sources say an unknown armed Islamic group is behind the threats which are inseminating terror in the capital.  The website www.Ankawa.com and AINA news agency along with Asia News have reported a ravage and inhuman campaign of against Christians in the area.  Even Mosul, a Sunni stronghold, the Christian presence is become grave. 

The Islamic group active in Dora seems to have delivered an ultimatum to the Christian community there: convert to Islam or die!

Reports say that they have delivered a Fatwa forbidding Christians to wear the cross or make any religious gesture.  The Islamic decree that can not be issued without the complicacy of an Muslim cleric also permits the confiscation of goods and properties belonging to the Christian families who find themselves forced to flee their homes for safety at short notice.

After the Christians evacuated Babel College U.S. Military forcibly occupied the vacant property without permission and inadvertently increased tensions between Muslims and Christians.  The blunder has drawn angst by Islamic fanatics boldly claming that Christians are in collaboration with the occupiers and are approved targets for killing.  The false accusation has placed Christians in grave and immediate danger.

The Babel college, the only faculty of theology in the country, houses on of the most ancient religious libraries in the region, full of priceless manuscripts.  Because of the increased insecurity in the city and continual abductions of religious the faculty had transferred to Ankawa, in the north of Iraq this past January, leaving the building empty.

The US military broke into the facility and are now using it as an observation outpost reports AisaNews.  The building is located at a strategic crossroads: within a Sunni enclave, in front of a Shiite district.  Leaders from the local Church are imploring the military to leave.  The military recognizing their blunder have promised to abandon the structure in the coming weeks.

Nonetheless, the fatwa remains in effect and Christians in the region remain in doors and in hiding.  The Chaldean auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, Msgr. Shlemon Warduni tells AsiaNews “in the last 2 months many Churches have been forced to remove their crosses from their domes”.  In the case of the Church of St. George, Muslim extremists took the situation into their own hands: they climbed onto the roof and ripped out the cross.  In the Chaldean Church of St John, in Dora, which have been without a pastor for months now, the parishioners under threat and concern decided to move the cross to a safer place following repeated acts of intimidation.  

The same threats which have arrived at the Church of St. Peter and Paul, which has so far however withstood intimidation: the cross hasn’t been removed but the threats continue.  “The Iraqi people are tired – says Warduni – we have been suffering for far too long the situation has become unsustainable; we ask God to give us peace.  The Christians, just like the Muslims, want to rebuild Iraq, we don’t want to be forced to flee, because this is where we were born, this is where we have lived our lives.”

St. Joseph, MI USA

St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church
2442 E. Big Beaver Rd.
Troy, MI 48083
Tel: (248) 528-3676
Fax: (248) 524-1957

Congregation Organizer:
Rev. Michael J. Bazzi

Church Constructing Pastor:
Rev. Sarhad Y. Jammo

Current Pastor:
Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Ayad Hanna

 Current Pastor: Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Msgr. Zouhair Toma (Kejbou) was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1947.  He was ordained a priest in Baghdad, Iraq in 1968, and accepted his first assignment to serve the community of Baquba.  The Monsignor’s leadership skills and organizational talents along with his mastery of theology were immediately evident.  He later assisted Sts. Peter and Paul in Al-Salehia, and St. George in New Baghdad.

In August, 1978 Monsignor Toma was called to serve the growing community of persecuted Chaldeans finding refuge in Australia.   Being the fist Chaldean priest to arrive in Australia he quickly established a parish for the Chaldeans in Sydney to serve their social and spiritual needs.  The parish was named after St. Thomas the Apostle and built a rectory. 

In 1989, for his incredible work he was granted the title of Monsignor, Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar for Australia and New Zealand.  Continuing his passionate work to serve the Chaldean community the Monsignor moved the Parish Center to a more accessible location and built a large church campus featuring a modern community center, residence quarters, and administrative offices in 1995. 

In 2003, Monsignor Toma added a magnificent church to replace the previous one in order to serve the fast growing community and also opened two other centers.  The first was Our Lady Guardian of Plants in Melbourne, and the second was Mar Addai the Apostle in Auckland, New Zealand.  Mar Addai in New Zealand included two very large churches along with rectories and community centers.  Overseeing the Patriarchal Vicariate for 28 years, he managed to inspire six more priests to help minister to the fast growing Chaldean community. 

In August 2006, Monsignor chose to assist the St. Thomas the Apostle Diocese in the U.S. as more Catholic churches were being built in America and address the growing need.  On October 2006, Monsignor was incardinated and appointed Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Troy.