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Chaldean Archibishop Paulos Faraj Rahho Kidnapped and Parishioners Murdered
By Huda Metti :: Friday, February 29, 2008 :: 62711 Views :: 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.  

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.