.- The Iraqi prime minister has made the release of a kidnapped Chaldean Catholic archbishop a top priority, saying the assault on Christians “represents an assault on all Iraqis,” Reuters reports.
Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, was abducted on Friday after he left a church in Mosul, a northern Iraq city. Gunmen attacked the archbishop’s car, killing his driver and two guards. Sources familiar with the kidnappers’ demands informed CNA yesterday that a $1.8 million ransom if being demanded for the archbishop’s freedom.
"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 office of Prime Minster Nuri al-Maliki said in a statement.
The prime minister’s office said Maliki had written to Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, the Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, expressing “deep sadness and grief” over the abduction and saying he was carefully monitoring the situation.
"The Christian sect in Iraq is one of the basic components of Iraqi society and can never be parted from its people and civilization," Maliki said in the statement. "Any assault on its sons represents an assault on all Iraqis."
On Saturday, the U.N. envoy to Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, called on the Shiite-dominated government to “redouble its efforts” to protect religious minorities in Iraq. In the past, Cardinal Delly has criticized Iraq’s Shiite leaders for staying silent while Christians were persecuted.
Chaldean Catholics, who follow an ancient Eastern rite, are part of the Catholic Church. They form the biggest Christian community in Iraq. As a whole, Iraqi Christians make up about 3 percent of the country’s 27 million population.
Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraqi Christians have been targeted by Islamic extremists who label them "crusaders" loyal to U.S. troops. These radical Muslims are able to use this strategy to recruit other extremists, raise terror funds, and force Christians to flee the country forfeiting their homes and property to extremists. The property is then sold or used to fund insurgency strikes against coalition forces.