Mosul, IRAQ – The Chaldean community around the world stand numb and in disbelief as news of Archbishop Bishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul is dead.
Outcry from world leaders swayed no influence as fanatical terrorists proved once more that no women, children, medical providers, and now spiritual leaders are safe from their killing spree. “These are innocent people that want to help bring peace. They kill them, because they are filled with hate. These barbarians have no faith in anything, but their own rise to power,” said Omar Touma, a recent refugee and Chaldean parishioner of the Good Shepherd Chaldean Church in Canada.
Text of the news, mournful cries, and prayer messages quickly traveled via e-mail and phone messaging reporting the sorrowful news. Our Bishop is dead, decried one message as images of weeping families huddled together comforting one another.
The kidnappers had been demanding a heavy ransom, Church officials say. When requests were made to speak to the Archbishop the kidnappers replied that the archbishop was dead and gave gave instructions on how Church officials could recover the archbishop's body.
The Chaldean archbishop of Mosul had been dead for at least five days before his body was found this morning by some members of the Church, following information provided by the kidnappers themselves. This timeline is provided by the autopsy conducted on the body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, found in an abandoned area outside of the city, which is in part used as a trash dump.
Archbishop Rahho was seized outside the Holy Spirit cathedral in Mosul after conducting a Stations of the Cross service on Friday, February 29. Three parishioners were killed by the gunmen who abducted the archbishop.
In the days since the kidnapping, Church leaders had pleaded in vain for some clear evidence that Archbishop Rahho was alive and well. The archbishop, who was 69, suffered from a serious heart condition and needed daily medication.
The identity of the kidnappers remains unknown. Although Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki had ordered an all-out effort to locate the archbishop and secure his release, troops were unsuccessful in their search around Mosul-- a city dominated by insurgents and terrorists.
While the kidnappers did ask for a large money ransom, they were evidently not motivated solely by the desire for financial gain. Church spokesmen said that their demands included political conditions-- an indication that the archbishop's abduction was arranged by a terrorist group rather than simply a criminal gang.
Mosul confirms its place as the most dangerous city for the Christian community, the presence of which has dropped by over 75% since 2003. Christians remain the soft target for insurgents terrorists and criminal gangs to raise money and fund their ongoing operations.
After the Iraqi government and coalition forces systematically began turning off funding sources for these militant and criminal groups, their focus turned towards Christians. Iraqi Christians tend to be educated professionals and considered wealthy. They also offer less of a risk in way of having a pro-Islamic police force aggressively peruse the crimes since the victims are Christians and maintain a dhimmi status under Islamic law.
The attacks have created a brain-drain in Iraq as the professionals flee the country in large numbers. Professors, doctors, scientists, and engineers have fled into neighboring regions or across the ocean seeking safe harbor.
After Fr Ragheed Gani was slaughtered on June 3 information revealed that the terrorists were politically motivated to drive Christians out of Iraq. Many consider the indigenous Iraqis that were able to maintain their Christian identity and keep from being converted or conquered by Muslim raiders in the early centuries a moderate balance to the region. The belief is held strongly by fanatical Muslims who are systematicaly driving out the church in hopes of creating a more fundamental Islamic Iraq.
The latest wave of violence against the church came from January 6-17, 2008, when a series of explosions struck the Chaldean Church of Mary Immaculate, the Chaldean Church of St Paul, which was almost destroyed, the entryway to the orphanage run by the Chaldean sisters in al Nour, a Nestorian church, and the convent of the Dominican sisters of Mosul Jadida.
“Our faith is in Jesus who died for the sins of humanity. He will find favor in our Chaldean Martyr who offered nothing but peace, hope, and love,” says Touma. “May bishop Raho rest in the arms of our Lord and may God show mercy on those that continue to hate. They will not scatter the Chaldean flock because they have killed our shepherd. Our faith will now grow even stronger.”