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.