Will the OIC release a report on the plight of Christian minorities in Iraq?

A Chaldean Catholic archbishop kidnapped in northern Iraq last month was today found dead.

The body of Paulos Faraj Rahho was discovered near the northern city of Mosul, where he was abducted on February 29.

Gunmen snatched him and killed his driver and two companions as they left mass.

The SIR news agency quoted the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, Monsignor Shlemon Warduni, as saying the kidnappers had buried Rahho’s remains.

Warduni said the church in Mosul received a phone call from the kidnappers telling them the archbishop was dead and where his body had been dumped.

“We are hurt by this painful incident,” Warduni said.

The archbishop’s body is believed to have been buried several days ago. No one has yet claimed responsibility for his killing.

A spokesman for the Vatican, the Rev Federico Lombardi, said the Pope had been informed of the death and was “deeply saddened”.

“We had all kept hoping and praying for his release,” Lombardi said. “Unfortunately the most absurd and senseless violence keeps dogging the Iraqi people, and especially the small Christian community.”

Rahho’s kidnappers had demanded increasing amounts of money and had refused to let other clergy to talk to him. They had claimed he was receiving “daily medical care from a doctor”.

His killing is the latest act of violence targeted against Iraq’s shrinking Christian community, which numbers around 700,000. Most are Chaldeans – Catholics who maintain autonomy from the Vatican but recognise the Pope’s authority.

In an interview in November with the AsiaNews news agency, Rahho said the situation in Mosul was not improving and “religious persecution is more noticeable than elsewhere because the city is split along religious lines”.

“Everyone is suffering from this war irrespective of religious affiliation, but in Mosul Christians face starker choices,” he said.

Since the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, Christians have been targeted by extremists who label them “crusaders” loyal to US forces.



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