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Chaldean Archibishop Paulos Faraj Rahho Kidnapped and Parishioners Murdered
By Huda Metti :: Friday, February 29, 2008 :: 147530 Views :: Article Rating :: Law & Order, Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends, Chaldean Churches

Mosul, Iraq - Gunmen have kidnapped the archbishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and murdered three of his aides.  The 65 year old archbishop was ordained in 2001.  Archibishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was ambushed as he left a church in the eastern al-Nour district, immediately after he finished celebrating the rite of the Via Crucis at a local church and shared consoling words of hope and peace.

Eyewitnesses said that a group of armed men attacked Archbishop Rahho’s vehicle.  The gunmen opened fire on the car, killing the three aides, before kidnapping the archbishop.  There is no further information of Rahho's whereabouts or his condition.  An aide to Iraq's Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, leader of the church, said he did not know who was behind the kidnapping of the 65-year-old archbishop.

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraqi Christians have been targeted by Islamic extremists who label them "crusaders" loyal to U.S. troops.  Fanatic Muslims  are using this strategy in order to recruit other extremists, raise terror funds, and force Christians to flee the country forfeiting their homes and property to extremists.  Property is then sold or used to fund insurgency strikes against coalition forces. 

Last year's International Religious Freedom Report from the U.S. State Department noted that Chaldean Catholics comprise a minority of the Iraqi population, but are the largest group among the less than 1 million Christians remaining in Muslim Iraq.

The killing and kidnapping of the Chaldean Archbishop comes less than a year after bombs exploded outside two Chaldean churches, an Assyrian church and a monastery in Mosul, wounding four people, and a Chaldean Catholic priest and three subdeacons were gunned down outside the same Mosul church.

Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni and subdeacons Basman Yousef Daoud, Wadid Hanna and Ghasan Bida Wid were killed June 3 while leaving the Church of the Holy Spirit after having celebrated Sunday Mass.  Father Ganni, the three subdeacons, and the wife of one of the subdeacons were driving away from the church when their car was blocked by a group of armed militants.

The armed men forced the woman out of the car. Once the woman was away from the vehicle the armed men asked the men to convert or be killed.  The faithful men began to pray when gun the gunman opened fire on Father Ganni and the three subdeacons.  A subdeacon is an ordination rank lower than deacon in most Eastern Catholic churches.

The militants then placed explosives around the car to prevent anyone from retrieving the four bodies. Later that night, authorities finally managed to defuse the explosives and retrieve the bodies.

"The bishop is in the hands of terrorists," Bishop Qas told reporters.  "But we don't know what physical condition (the archbishop is in); the three men who were with him in the car, including his driver, were killed," he explained.  "It's a terrible time for our church; pray for us," he said.

The kidnappers have reportedly communicated their demands, which were not made public.  "We pray for his release as soon as possible," said Archbishop Andreos Abouna. "This act of abduction against a Christian clergy member will increase our fears and worries about the situation of Christians in Iraq."

Churches, priests and business owned by Christians have been systematically attacked by Islamic militants forcing most Christians to flee the country.  Without any protection and indifference by the Iraqi government Christians in Iraq remain viable targets for terrorist groups to raise money and attempt to overthrow the government. 

Last June, Pope Benedict XVI expressed deep concern about the plight of Christians caught in the deadly sectarian crossfire in Iraq and pressed President Bush in a meeting to keep their safety in mind.  "Particularly in Iraq, Christian families and communities are feeling increasing pressure from insecurity, aggression and a sense of abandonment," Benedict said at the time.

Although Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pledged last fall to protect and support the Christian minority little has been done. 

Though most of Iraq has witnessed a decrease of violence over the past six months, the U.S. military regards Mosul as the last urban stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq, and is engaged in a campaign with Iraqi forces to root out extremists from the city 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Vatican-affiliated missionary news agency reported in November that Rahho said the situation in Mosul was not improving and "religious persecution is more noticeable than elsewhere because the city is split along religious lines."

"Everyone is suffering from this war irrespective of religious affiliation, but in Mosul Christians face starker choices," he told the Vatican news agency.

The lack of outcry by the Muslim community around the world continues to fan the flame that Muslim sentiments are callous and indifferent to the suffering of innocent people.  “Planting bombs targeting women and children, assassinations of peaceful clergy, and destruction of historical and cultural milestones by Muslims has raised concerns internationally of the Muslim religion and the lack of understanding by Muslim religious leaders, says Amer Hassou, a Chaldean student of political science. 

“The growing dissatisfaction continues to destroy the credibility of Islam marketed as a religion of peace when violence is carried out in the name of Mohamed around the globe,” he adds.  

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St. Thomas, MI USA

St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church
6900 Maple Rd.
West Bloomfield, MI 48322
Tel: (248) 788-2460
Fax: (248) 788-2153

Founding Pastor:
Rev. Hanna Cheikho

Current Pastor:
Rev. Frank Kalabat

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Jirjis Abrahim

Rev. Emmanuel Rayes, Retired  


Rev. Frank Kalabat
 

Rev. Frank Kalabat was born in 1970 in San Diego, California and entered St. Francis Seminary of San Diego, California.  The admission to the Catholic seminary made him the first born U.S. Chaldean to enter an American seminary.  In 1992, Fr. Kalabat continued his studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan.  In July 1995, shortly after graduation he was ordained as priest by His Excellency Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim.  

Fr. Frank chose Mother of God Parish in Southfield, MI. as his first assignment serving the Chaldean community as an associate pastor for half a decade.  In 2001, Fr. Kalabat was elected to serve as Pastor of St. Tomas Parish in West Bloomfield, Michigan where he remains today.   

Rev. Jirjis Abrahim

Rev. Jirjis Abrahim was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1942. Upon graduation Fr. Abrahim was admitted to St. Peter Chaldean Seminary in Baghdad, Iraq.  After a decade of studies and numerous degrees, Fr. Abrhim was ordained a priest in 1967.  He chose to continue ministering in Baghdad, Iraq.  There he was appointed the headmaster of the catechism at Mother of Sorrows Cathedral.  Fr. Abrahim also assisted St. Therese Church in Baghdad until 1978.  Afterward he was asked to assist St. Joseph Church in Baghdad and was appointed Parochial Vicar from 1978-1992. 

In 1992, Fr. Abrahim was called upon to assist the growing Chaldean population in Michigan.  Upon his arrival he was assigned to St. Joseph Church in Tory, Michigan.  Two years later Fr. Abrahim was asked to become the pastor of a Parish community in Windsor, Canada  where he remained the parish pastor until 2001.

Continuing demographic changes in Michigan required Fr. Abrahim to return to St. Joseph Parish in Tory as a Parochial Vicar, where he remained until 2006.  In 2006 he was elected to St. Thomas Parish as Parochial Vicar in West Bloomfield, MI. where he currently serves the Chaldean community.

 

Rev. Emmanuel Rayes

Rev. Emmanuel Rays was born in Araden, Iraq in 1930.  He studied at St. John Dominican Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in 1954.  The Chaldean catholic ambassador ministered in northern Iraq from 1954-1963, in Syria and Lebanon from 1963-1980, and in the United Stated from 1980 to the present day.
 
Form 1980-1983, he was appointed associate pastor at Mother of God Parish in Southfield, Michigan.  From 1983-1989 he served as pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Detroit, Michigan.  During the early 1990’s he ministered to the Chaldean community in Farmington Hills and was at St. Joseph Parish in Tory where he was Parochial Vicar until 2000.

Although Fr. Rayes retired in 2001, he remains active in serving the community.  He is the author of many articles in Arabic and is the editor-in-chief of the Al Mishal and Al-Tariq magazine.  He has translated and continues to translate many books from French and English into Arabic.