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Iraqi Christians Demonstrate Democracy in Week-Long March for Justice
By Amer Hedow :: Saturday, March 29, 2008 :: 56162 Views :: Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends

Ninevah, IRAQ - It would seem Iraqi Christians are able to embrace the democratic principles of petitioning government, free speech, and the right to assemble.  For most of the week, peaceful marches have been held by Iraqi Christians in hopes of drawing attention to the injustice and persecution Christians face.  The silent marches send reverberating waves throughout the country as other Iraqis look on in interest. 

Each day hundreds of Chaldeans and other Christians march down streets holding photos of Christian Martyrs.   Loud in action and small in talk the Iraqi Christians call for justice.  The council of Nineveh bishops, which include the community and religious leaders of all Christian communities in the Ninevah region of Iraq support the marches.

Men, women, and children march holding pictures of Archbishop Rahho to Fr Ragheed and Fr Paul Iskandar, all victims killed by radical Islamist hoping to drive Christians out of their land.  Marchers also carried hundreds of pictures of Christian family members who have been killed for their faith, resisting kidnapping attempts, refusal to convert, or because they owned shops that sold alcoholic beverages (banned by Islam).  The protestors walked through the streets of Bartella, Karamles, Qaraqosh, al Qosh.

The appeal of the bishops' council, announced in all the churches last March 23, cites the words of one of Archbishop Rahho's last homilies: "We are Iraqis, we want to build peace, to build Iraq, Iraq is ours too; we are for Iraq.  We are staying here, we have no enemies, we do not hate anyone".  The message clearly asked: to suspend all outward celebrations (it will soon be Easter for the Orthodox) except for liturgical ones; to fast on March 24 and 26; and to organise peaceful manifestations, so that justice may be done over the death of Archbishop Rahho.

The events surrounding the death of the archbishop of Mosul are still unclear.  The Iraqi authorities say they have arrested a group of people, including four brothers, who were involved in the kidnapping; they are thought to be former members of the regime of Saddam Hussein, who are believed to have sold the bishop to al Qaeda. 

Initially, there were said to have been confessions, in which those responsible recounted torturing the bishop, but then the story changed to suffocation, a method used to leave no traces on the body.  A last detail: it is thought that there is a video recording of the killing, but so far the police say they have not found it. 

The information released is raising doubts over the proper and transparent handling of the case on the part of the Iraqi government.  This may be doing nothing more than seeking the least discrediting way to leave behind a shameful incident that has exposed it yet again to media attention and world public opinion.

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.