Faith held hostage by violence

The kidnapping and killing of one of Iraq’s most prominent Christians exposed al-Qaeda’s brutal fundraising methods.
Andrew Wander
3 ACR reported that Bishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of the Chaldean Church of Mosul and 3 bodyguards were found murdered in a sedan in the Al Ikha neighborhood.

UPDATE: 292007FEB08 IP’s from ERB4 reported 3x LN KIA at that location, none of them are the bishop. ERB4 IP believe the bishop was kidnapped. The bodies were taken to Al Jamouri Hospital.

UPDATE: 131750MAR08 1 West reports that the body of Bishop Paulos Faraj Raho was found at grid 38SLF 39700 21600 in the Al Intisar neighborhood.

The murder of Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, marked a nadir in interfaith relations in Iraq. He was kidnapped by al-Qaeda in Iraq operatives in February 2008 in what appears to have been a desperate attempt by the group to raise money.

His story demonstrates how al-Qaeda in Iraq operated with little regard for the people of Iraq as they waged war against the US presence in the country, using them as little more than cannon-fodder and cash-cows.

Bishop Rahho had lived almost his entire life in Mosul, which has a long established community of Chaldean Catholics. In 2001 he became the Archbishop of Mosul, becoming the leader of about 20,000 Catholics in 10 parishes.

When Iraqi Christians found themselves at the wrong end of a growing campaign of violence as the war progressed, Rahho stayed with his flock, continuing to preach a message of forgiveness and religious tolerance in the face of the attacks.

As one of the most prominent Christians in northern Iraq, it was a matter of time before Rahho found himself attracting the attention of al-Qaeda. After he had finished giving a mass on February 29, 2008, the archbishop’s car was attacked with gunfire and he was bundled into the boot of a waiting vehicle.

His kidnappers demanded the release of foreign fighters captured in Iraq and that they be paid $ 3m for his release. The kidnappers also demanded that Iraqi Christians form a militia to fight US forces in the country.

But the money was never paid. Church officials said that Rahho had managed to call them on his cell-phone while in the boot of the car and had instructed them not to pay any ransom for his release.

“He believed that this money would not be paid for good works and would be used for killing and more evil actions,” the church officials said. A month later Rahho’s body was found in a shallow grave after a note describing its whereabouts was passed to church members.

His death provoked international condemnation. Pope Benedict XVI described it as “an act of inhuman violence”. George Bush, the then US president, said the archbishop’s killing was “savage and cruel”, while Nouri al Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, condemned it as “the work of a criminal gang intent on provoking religious strife.”

In his will, Rahho called on Christians to build bridges between the different faiths of Iraq. One of his killers, an al-Qaeda cell leader call Ahmed Ali Ahmed, was captured and sentenced to death soon after his death. Rahho’s church opposed the use of capital punishment against the killer.