Marches in the Christian villages: justice in the death of Archbishop Rahho

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rahho_i1.jpgResponding to an appeal from the Nineveh bishops’ council, the Christian community in the north takes to the streets: for almost a week, each day hundreds of people have marched holding photos of the “martyrs” of five years of war. Still no details on those responsible for the kidnapping and killing of the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – In silence, every day for almost a week, in the Christian villages of the plain of Nineveh peaceful marches have been held to call for truth in the case of the kidnapping and killing of the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul. Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was found dead on March 13, after 14 days in captivity. Three men who were with him were killed in the ambush during which he was kidnapped, after the celebration of the Via Crucis on February 29.

Now Iraqi Christians are asking for justice. Responding to an appeal launched on Easter by the Nineveh bishops’ council (which includes the religious leaders of all the Christian communities present in the area) they have taken courage and each day have walked through the streets of Bartella, Karamles, Qaraqosh, al Qosh, holding the portraits of their “martyrs” (see photo): from Archbishop Rahho to Fr Ragheed and Fr Paul Iskandar, all killed in the last three years by Islamic terrorists. Without counting the many laypeople killed while resisting kidnapping attempts, because they refused to convert or only because they owned shops that sold alcoholic beverages (banned by Islam). 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 autopsy revealed no signs of violence, and showed that the prelate probably died at least five days before his body was recovered, probably following complications with his already precarious health. 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.