Why No U.S. Outcry Over the Kidnapping of Archbishop Rahho?
By Deacon Keith Fournier
LOS ANGELES -- On Friday February 29, 2008 the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Iraq, Paulos Faraj Rahho was kidnapped at gunpoint. Three men traveling with him were killed.
The terrorists who perpetrated this evil act attacked the Bishop's car some 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad in Eastern Mosul. They executed the driver and two other unarmed men.
Provincial police spokesman Brigadier-General Khaled Abdul Sattar, a witness, indicated "Gunmen opened fire on the car, killed the other three and kidnapped the archbishop,"
The saintly Archbishop has not been heard from since.
He had just left the Parish Church in Mosul, Iraq. This Church is dedicated to the Holy Spirit and was the parish Church of Fr. Ragheed Ganni, the Iraqi Martyr.
Last year, on the Feast of Pentecost, armed Muslims confronted Father Ragheed Ganni along with three of his sub-deacons, Basman Yousef Daud, Wahid Hanna Isho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed.
These three clergymen had just left the celebration of Holy Mass at this Parish Church on Pentecost. They held the three men at gunpoint, demanding that they convert to Islam or die.
The four men then gave their lives for the ancient Catholic Christian faith.
On Friday of last week, the 67 year old Archbishop had also just completed leading the faithful in prayer. This time it was the Stations of the Cross, a devotional practice wherein Catholics remember Jesus' ascent up the Mountain of Golgotha to be crucified.
Now, almost a week later, authorities are no closer to finding him or even identifying who kidnapped this beloved Church leader. He walks his own way of the Cross, with the Master and Christians throughout the world must join with him in prayer and solidarity.
The outcry from the Holy See to this act of barbarism was swift, strong, impassioned and has remained constant. Pope Benedict XVI immediately referred to this kidnapping as a "deplorable act, which is a powerful blow to the whole Church in the country".
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki also quickly responded. He wrote to the Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, proclaiming his outrage and expressing "deep sadness and grief".
His office then issued a formal statement saying, "The prime minister has issued an order to the interior minister and all security officials of Nineveh province to follow the case and work very hard to release (Rahho) as soon as possible...The Christian sect in Iraq is one of the basic components of Iraqi society and can never be parted from its people and civilisation. Any assault on its sons represents an assault on all Iraqis."
On Monday Jordanian Prince El Hassan bin Talaj strongly and officially condemned the kidnapping and murders saying "These criminal acts defy our principles of common humanity and offend our religious values and codes of conduct."
The European Union's Slovenian President condemned the act on Sunday, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the Archbishop.
The UN envoy to Iraq called on the Iraqi government to step up its protection of minorities after the abduction of a Chaldean Catholic in Mosul, northern Iraq, last week.
However, as of today, there has been no formal statement issued from the Government of the United States.
At least there is action. On Wednesday, one European report indicated that a U.S. General in Iraq indicated that that the Archbishop was being held for ransom. The General noted he was not confident he would be freed alive, "He could easily be killed, and that would be really unfortunate."
The same report confirmed that U.S. troops are accompanying Iraqi special forces in a concentrated hunt for the Archbishop.
General Hertling spoke from outside of a conference in the Iraqi city of Tikrit. He indicated in brief comments to the Reuters News Agency that, though he had no knowledge of who was responsible for the murders and the kidnapping, he did not rule out al Qaeda in Iraq. "It could either be a criminal act for money or a terrorist act to raise money because they're running low on funds".
The Christians in Iraq are increasingly fearful.
One priest, Father Najeeb Mikhail spoke with the Christian news agency Compass Direct, which reports on persecuted Christians. He said of the kidnappers and murderers,"They want money, but in addition they want to break all the Christians in Mosul" he said.
He also noted that Archbishop Rahho's health had been badly affected by the stress of constant threats from militant gangs demanding extortion money, "One day before his kidnapping, they attacked the bishop's house in Mosul and broke many things."
Father Emanuel Youkhana of the Christian Aid Program "Nohadra Iraq" told a reporter, "You might release the bishop, but you cannot recover the confidence of the people...Within the last two or three months, the church is attacked and then the bishop is kidnapped, so how can people save their confidence?"
Fr Mikhail is convinced, as are most observers, that these escalating acts of targeted persecution against Christians are about driving the Christian community from Iraq. He noted, "There are some Muslims that want to put Christians out of Mosul...So through these criminals, they try to intimidate the relationship between Muslims and Christians."
With the growing outcry from heads of State and international leaders, why has there not been even one formal statement from the United States President or Administration?
Why have none of the Presidential candidates even mentioned the Archbishop of Mosul?
We cannot, we must not, remain silent any longer.