Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Iraqi Syriac Catholic Archbishop Is Released

The last 24 hours were stressful for me. I'm sure they were stressful for all Iraqi-Christians who heard about the kidnapping of Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa. I prayed, lit a novena candle and went to bed early. In my humble mind, I hoped to wake up to the news of his release. Yesterday, I couldn't write about his kidnapping because of my mixed feelings of fear and anger.

Thank God this crisis is over. Archbishop Basile told reporters after his release:

As soon as they found out I was a bishop, their attitude changed ... I think that my abduction was a coincidence. In recent times, there have been numerous kidnappings around here.

Based on the conversations I had with them (the kidnappers), it didn't appear to me that they wanted to strike at the Church as such.

I'm sure his kidnappers knew he was a religious figure when they decided to kidnap him. But, this is a good example of how Iraqi Christians over the years acted as peacemakers during good and bad times. Something I can't explain with any words.

This is not the first time an Iraqi-Christian clergyman has been kidnapped. Recently, two Chaldean monks of the Dora monastery in Baghdad were kidnapped by unknown individuals and released two days later.

Living in Mosul has become unbearable for many Christian families. Many Christian families have either left the country or moved back to live in small villages to avoid the hardships of being a Christian in Mosul. I'm not making up these facts. My sister-in-law's uncle, who lived in Mosul most of his life, has moved his family to a small village. Still, it didn't mean he was safe enough. A few weeks ago, he was kidnapped in front of his house in Mosul. He had returned to pick up a few things from the house to take them back to his new residence at the village. His family was forced to pay his kidnappers $40,000 U.S. before he was released.

That's why I lived with fear in my mind for the last 24 hours. I had those dark scenarios in my head. One of them was the kidnappers may behead Archbishop Basile. Knowing my people, they would've packed their bags and left to Jordan or Syria. I know moving to those two countries wouldn't guarantee them asylum in any countries. So, their future would've been bleak.

I sometimes feel my minority is cursed. Most of the time we're accused of being Westerners just because we share the same religion as the American troops. Most of the time, the Americans don't recognize our existence as they don't want to look like they favor one minority over the rest of the country. So, what's our fault in this mayhem. Should we stay and suffer or leave and still suffer.

Could someone from The White House, The Pentagon or The State Department tell this minority what to do next.

I know every sector of Iraqi society has its own problems these days. But, we're the one minority that neither side wants to protect. Very soon we won't exist on the Iraqi census. That's why I encourage every Iraqi Christian living aboard with a nearby voting center to go and vote. Be the voice of the ones inside the country who can't make their voice heard.

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