Archbishop’s death could drive Iraqi Christians underground

.- A group called Iraqi Christians in Need (ICIN) has said that the killing of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho in Mosul could force the Church underground.

Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped by assailants on February 29 in Mosul.  In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Chaldean church officials said that the Archbishop's captors made "impossible" demands in exchange for his safe return, among them financial support for opposing Americans.

Archbishop Rahho’s body was discovered on Wednesday.  His abductors had claimed he was “very ill,” and later buried his body.

ICIN spokesperson Dr. Suha Rassam said, “The killing of Archbishop Rahho is shocking. Christians will now be even more in fear of their lives from Islamic fundamentalists.”

“The only way for the Church in the Mosul area to survive might be if it goes underground, like it did in the first and second centuries. This way, Mass and other services would be held in secret and priests go about their duties clandestinely.”

Dr. Rassam said that attacks on Christians have been escalating over the past eight months.  In June a priest and three deacons were murdered.  In October, two priests were kidnapped.  In January, four churches and a convent were bombed.

Referring to the possibility of Christians going underground, Dr. Rassam said, “This is not a situation anyone would want, but the Christian population is living each day in terror of being kidnapped or murdered.  When the Church is facing persecution of this magnitude, then desperate measures might have to be taken.”

The Institute for Religion and Democracy’s Director of Religious Liberty Programs Faith J.H. McDonnell called upon U.S. Christians to “begin to stand up for the Church in Iraq.”

"The Mosul area is known as a hotbed of Islamic extremism. This was no act by ordinary criminals, but rather an act of intimidation by cowards that preyed upon a peaceful infirm man," she said.

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