On Monday, October 9, a prominent Assyrian (also known as Chaldean and Syriac) priest, Fr. Paulos Iskander (Paul Alexander), was kidnapped by an unknown Islamic group. His ransom was posted at either $250,000 or $350,000. This group had demanded that signs be posted once again on his church apologizing for the Pope’s remarks as a condition for negotiations to begin.
Father Alexander was beheaded on Wednesday.
The News Agency says it received this report from a priest in Sweden, via email. Father Adris Hanna sent the following information:
- - - - - - - - - -
The Bishop in Mosul wrote me an email tonight and told me that the funeral will be held in Mosul tomorrow.
Christians are living a terrified life in Mosul and Baghdad. Several priests have been kidnapped, girls are being raped and murdered and a couple of days ago a fourteen year old boy was crucified in the Christian neighborhood Albasra.
I have also spoken to a group of nuns that were robbed and treated brutally on their way between Baghdad to Amman in Jordan.
The murder of father Paulus is the final blow for Christians, and now only hell is expected for the Christians of Iraq.
We the oriental Christians in Sweden and the rest of the Western world must protest against the genocide. We must do what we can to stop the rape, threats, hatred, robberies, murders… We must do something.
In late September, the same news agency reported the bombing of St. Mary’s Cathedral in the Riyadh district of Baghdad. The explosions were timed to occur as worshippers were leaving the church on Sunday morning.
According to their report, two people died and another twenty-five were injured, including four police officers. The first bomb, planted on a priest’s car near the entrance, injured several people leaving the church. This served to gather a large crowd and police officers were called to the scene. It was then that a much bigger explosive device was detonated, causing the real carnage.
The history of Assyrian and Chaldean Christians in Iraq goes back to the beginnings of the Christian religion. They do not consider themselves ethnic Arabs, and have resisted attempts to align them with Baath Sunnis. Like the Kurds, they suffered under Hussein. For some background on these folk, see Global Security’s analysis. Here is an excerpt:
Assyrians did not fare well under Saddam Hussein, who destroyed Assyrian churches. Saddam Hussein’s emphasis on tribal identity alienated contemporary Assyrians, who are excluded from Arab tribes and tribal customs.
Assyrians have been in close proximity to political power in a number of empires of which they have been a part, despite their small numbers. As leaders of the Church of the East traditionally emphasized learning, their political success was often due to their high degree of education.
Although the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Iraq, was allied with Germany during World War I, the Assyrians sided with Britain and were later protected by the British during the British Mandate that ruled Iraq after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Assyrians joined the British imperial troops, known as Levies. The Levies were notoriously used as an instrument of internal security, particularly to suppress Kurdish revolts in northern Iraq. Considered haughty by other Iraqis, the Assyrians earned bitter resentment among Iraqi Kurds and Arabs during this period.
In 1933, as several hundred Assyrians attempted to cross the Tigris River into the French mandate of Syria, fighting erupted with Iraqi border troops. Within a few days, thousands of unarmed Assyrians were summarily executed in their villages while the Iraqi government stood aside. The Assyrian patriarch fled to exile in Cyprus and Britain, eventually reestablishing his seat in Chicago in 1939 along with approximately 15,000 Assyrians.
Christianity is an important facet of identity among contemporary Assyrians. Assyrians and Chaldeans both trace their religious identities to the beginning of the Christian era.
The more you learn about Iraq, the less you know. It is a complicated country, full of contradiction and contrasts. It behooves all of us to learn what we can, and to bear witness to the terrible deaths brought on by sectarian hatred.
No doubt the US will be blamed somehow for the crucifixion of the young Christian boy in Albasra, or the rapes of Christian girls by Iraqi marauders.
In fact, we are responsible for so many things - global warming, global poverty, the evils of unbridled capitalism, eco-imperialism, and so on. Why, our very breathing in and out causes millions to die due to oxygen deprivation. We poison the planet with our presence.
Please pray (or, if you’re not prone to prayer, then ponder) for the parents of that boy. He is gone now and past suffering, but they have to carry on, with only God knows what images burned in their hearts and minds. My own identification with their suffering includes what it must have cost them in pain, removing their child down from that cross.
The Pieta should remain entombed in marble. It should not be lived out anymore in flesh and blood, especially in the body of a child.
Hat tip: Tom Pechinski