Mosul, IRAQ – “If the condemnation by their Imams of the kidnapping and murder of Chaldean Archbishop Rahho was not enough, what will stop them,” says Eddie Gulli. The Archbishop left big shoes to fill after his disgraceful execution. “Our people have been able to survive because of faith. They know this and that is why they attack our church. They know if you attack our faith you will ultimately kill all of us.”
Gulli’s comments ring true to many Iraqi Christian leaders. The continuous attacks against the passive church seem to only get worse. “It seems the more humble and forgiving the church, the angrier these crazy people become,” Gulli comments while shaking his head dumbfounded.
As soon as a new priest, Fr. Bassman Fatoohey was assigned to replace the Archbishop in Mosul the threats against his life began. "I recently received a letter at the presbytery. Inside was a bullet. I knew at once what it meant," he says: "I was a marked man,” Fr. Fatoohey tells the Catholic Herald.
As Fr. Fatoohey speaks a young man behind the priest time and again dashes looks around the area. The twenty-something fellow has volunteered to be the priest’s bodyguard. Surprisingly the guard carries no weapon, but is prepared to sacrifice his life to give the priest a chance to run should they come under attack.
The priest continues, "There's no point," says Fr Bassman. "Any attacks against us are so well organized that if it happens, we know there's nothing we can do to stop it."
More amazing to the Herald reporter is the eternal optimism and strength of faith the Chaldeans maintain in the plausible reality of extinction. One such remarkable testmant to faith is Sr Hayat, who the Herald reporter also interviewed in a village outside Mosul. The 25-year-old nun, said that since 2004 several bombs had gone off close to the convent. Bravely, she said: "There is no need for an alarm clock; we wake to the sound of bombs." The young nun narrowly escaped death when a man standing near her was killed. Her clothes were splattered with blood. "If you want to see blood," she said trying to smile, "come to Mosul."
A fraction of the Christians remain in Mosul. Unlike the more peaceful territories of Iraq, Mosul remains under the control of Islamist fanatics that look to interrupt the lives of Christians as much as possible.
Many have fled to a life of forced squalor in neighboring Turkey or Syria. Families forced to live in 8 by 8 square feet size rooms shared by six people or more. No running water and little food. Many of the emigrant refugees are not allowed to seek jobs or send their children to school. The refugees remain in the shadows scratching out a living in hopes of securing a visa to a country offering more humane opportunities.
Chaldean church leaders fight to persuade Christians to remain in Iraq. However, with little money and support the indigenous and once resurgent Church of the East is fast dwindling.
Some organizations are heading the call to help Christians in Iraq in the communities darkest hour. In the UK the Aid to the Church in Need is hosting an event at Westminster Cathedral this Saturday, September 27, to focus on Iraq, where Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad will be principal celebrant at the 10.30am Mass. For more information visit www.acnuk.org
Those who are prepared to answer the call to save the dying community are encouraged to contact any of the remaining Chaldeans churches to discuss how resources to aid Iraqi Christians can be made. Chaldean churches outside of Iraq in countries like Jordon, Sweden, Canada, Russia, and the United States are also able to help direct whatever support being offered.