British church leaders join calls for the release of Chaldean archbishop

By staff writers
March 9, 2008

Church leaders in Britain, including Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, have continued to make private and public appeals for the release of Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahno, who was kidnapped recently in Baghdad.

The Pope has also joined global appeals from members of all faith communities and from secular figures and politicians. There are fears that as time moves on, the fate of the archbishop grows more uncertain.

The kidnapping of the Archbishop of Mosul was likely a criminal rather than a political act, the vicar of Baghdad, Canon Andrew White, has told the Religious Intelligence website, run in association with the Church of England Newspaper.

“Most of the kidnappings of Christians are economic rather than political,” Canon White said in an e-mail from Baghdad a week ago. The kidnapping of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho is “distressing,” but has only made headlines in the West because he is an Archbishop, he added.

“The fact that he is a Chaldean Archbishop also makes things worse as it is known that they are linked to the Roman Catholic Church so it is perceived that they should have plenty of money,” said Canon White.

While the security situation has improved in recent months, “the fact is that this is still the most dangerous place in the world.” However, “the kidnapping of the Archbishop is not in any way a sign that things are getting worse but the continuation of the same saga,” he declared.

Gunmen seized the Chaldean Archbishop following a service at the Church of the Holy Spirit the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Friday, killing his driver and two guards.

Pope Benedict XVI called the crime “despicable” and urged the kidnappers to free the archbishop.

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of his concern for the prompt release of the Iraqi church leader last week.

He went on to express his "deep sympathy for the families of those killed seeking to protect Archbishop Paulos and solidarity with the Christian community of Mosul".

Dr Williams expressed his confidence that the faithful of the Anglican Communion would respond positively to Pope Benedict XVI's invitation "for the universal Church unite in fervent prayer so that reason and compassion prevail in the kidnappers and Archbishop Rahho is given back as soon as possible to his flock".

The Archbishop noted that "This incident illustrates the continuing situation of insecurity in which Christians in Iraq have been living in recent years". This is a point which he and other UK Christian leaders have been at pains to stress since the Iraq conflict began.

Dr Williams also voiced his hope that Muslim leaders in the region be amongst those calling for and seeking to ensure the prompt release of the kidnapped Archbishop.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said, "Towards the end of last year I welcomed an open letter from a wide range of Muslim leaders and scholars urging that we "vie with each other only in righteousness and good works" as a witness to a shared love of God and love of neighbour. It is in response to events such as these that religious and community leaders internationally, regionally and, above all, locally can demonstrate their commitment to mutual respect."

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