Chaldean bishop says U.S. accountable for death of Iraqi archbishop
By Joe Kohn -Catholic News Service
DETROIT (CNS) -- A Chaldean Catholic bishop said the United States must be held accountable for the death of Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq.
Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim of the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, based in Southfield, Mich., said that particularly the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is responsible for the terrorism and killing of Christians in Iraq. He said the administration is ignoring the problem.
"No one is defending us," he said March 13, the day the archbishop's body was recovered after kidnappers said where they had buried him. "They are killing Christians because they are Christians."
Bishop Ibrahim said the Feb. 29 kidnapping and subsequent death of the archbishop threw into question the destiny of Christians in Iraq. Three of the archbishop's companions were killed in the kidnapping.
"We know that before the invasion of the Americans in Iraq, (terrorism) was no such a thing," Bishop Ibrahim said. "Christians and Muslims were living together, exactly like brothers and sisters, and that's it. But since the invasion, everything changes."
"Somebody has to be responsible," the bishop said. "Since the Americans are occupying Iraq, they have the responsibility of the security of every Iraqi, and in the first place minorities. I am not saying the Christians only -- but they are doing nothing for them."
He said many Iraqis living in Michigan knew Archbishop Rahho.
"We are from Mosul, all of us," Bishop Ibrahim said.
"He was believing in the fraternity of all humankind," Bishop Ibrahim said of Archbishop Rahho. "He was preaching the forgiveness for everyone. He was preaching to take care of each other, without regards to the faith or the name or the gender."
Bishop Ibrahim said Archbishop Rahho spent his whole life in Mosul and was close to Catholics.
"He was very close to his flock, very close, especially to those who were marginalized -- poor people, handicapped people," he said. "He was very good with the Muslims."
He said the Chaldean Catholic community has planned a March 14 memorial service for Archbishop Rahho at Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church in Southfield.
The news that the archbishop was killed could force Iraqi Christians underground, said Iraqi Christians in Need, a British-based charity aiding Christian Iraqis.
Suha Rassam, spokeswoman for the charity, said, "The only way for the church in the Mosul area to survive might be if it goes underground, like it did in the first and second centuries. This way, Mass and other services would be held in secret, and priests go about their duties clandestinely."
In a March 13 statement, Rassam said an underground church is not a "situation anyone would want, but the Christian population is living each day in terror of being kidnapped or murdered."
"When the church is facing persecution of this magnitude, then desperate measures might have to be taken," he said.
"Over the last eight months, attacks on Christians have been escalating," he said. "In June Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni and three deacons were murdered, two priests were kidnapped in October, and in January four churches and a convent were bombed."
Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Andraos Abouna of Baghdad told Aid to the Church in Need March 13: "We are all very sad. Archbishop Rahho was a peaceful man. What we need now is prayer for his soul."
John Pontifex, London-based media officer of the Catholic charity that helps persecuted Christians, said that "firsthand reports given by bishops, priests and laypeople" show that "Christians are now terrified, and this sad news will simply speed up the rate of emigration, which in turn could cause Christianity to be extinguished from the country."
"The martyrdom of Archbishop Rahho will send out the clearest possible signal yet that no Christian is safe in Iraq," he said.