Pope Calls for Christian-Muslim Good Will in Memory of Slain Iraqi Archbishop; 4 US Troops Killed

This Easter is an especially sad one for Iraq’s Chaldean Christians. Their archbishop was kidnapped and held for ransom, then killed by guerrillas. His captors had demanded that the Christians support demands that the US withdraw from Iraq and pay $3 mn. [Since Chaldeans are patriotic Iraqis, there was no reason to think they did not already support withdrawal of US troops.]

Nor was that the last of their problems, according to this article by Peter Lamprecht:

‘ Days after the body of a kidnapped archbishop was found buried in northern Iraq, fresh kidnappings and murders continue to haunt the country’s Christians this Passion Week.

“We have people threatened, people kidnapped, people killed – this is Holy Week,” Kirkuk’s Chaldean Archbishop Luis Sako said.

Danger in Mosul may be great enough to effectively cancel Easter in the city this year, one clergyman said.

“We could close our churches in Mosul to protect ourselves and say to everyone that we don’t accept the situation,” Dominican Father Najeeb Mikhail said. “Or we can hold all the celebrations, and maybe we will receive some bombs or attacks.”

Fr. Mikhail affirmed that Mosul’s Christian denominations planned to remain in the city despite the attacks.

His comments came yesterday, only hours before meeting with Mosul’s Syrian Orthodox and Syrian Catholic bishops to decide how to help the city’s now leaderless Chaldean flock. Chaldean Archbishop Paulus Faraj Rahho, kidnapped last month while leaving a Mosul church, was found dead last Thursday (March 13), buried in a shallow grave. ‘

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated a memorial mass for Archbishop Rahho last week. He said then, “”Let his example support all Iraqis of good will — Christians and Muslims — to work for a peaceful coexistence, founded on human brotherhood and reciprocal respect . . .”

Surely that is the way Archbishop Rahho would have wanted his death to be commemorated, by increased Christian-Muslim understanding.

AFP notes that Pope Benedict seemed profoundly upset by the archbishop’s killing, and in his Palm Sunday sermon last Sunday at St. Peter’s Square said:

“Enough with the slaughter. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq!”

Someone should put it to music and sing it at peace rallies.

The press says there was applause. There is certainly applause from me. The Catholic Church was among the few major institutions in the world to come forthrightly out against the Iraq War on principle.

There were about 800,000 Christians in Iraq in 2002, and it is widely thought that about half have been forced to flee the country, mainly to Syria and Lebanon.

The deaths of 4 US troops were announced on Saturday. One was killed on Friday, and three more were struck by a roadside bomb on Saturday.

You contrast the concerns of the Iraqi Christians, with just staying alive this Easter or finding enough food to eat or avoiding being kidnapped, with those of Americans in southern California. Many are struggling to avoid losing their homes; for some it is too late, and they just have to be grateful for their new small apartments. Then this brought me up short:

‘ Former Marine Cpl. Gustavo Aguilar Jr., a two-tour veteran of the Iraq war who was profiled in the Daily News last week, also has something to be thankful for in tough times.

Aguilar had been laid off from a bakery-delivery job and feared losing his home. But after his story appeared in the Daily News, Aguilar immediately received several job offers.

He now likely will be able to avoid either foreclosure or having to sell his Sylmar town home.

“Despite all the hard times we’ve gone through, we never lost faith,” Aguilar said. “If it can carry us through, it can do the same for the country.” ‘

So if the Iraqis are being devastated by the war, and if the Americans who fought the war are losing their lives, or if alive are losing their jobs and barely avoiding being made homeless, who exactly is benefiting from the war?

Enough with the slaughter. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq.

Sing it.

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