Priests say Iraqi Christians now victims of extortion

Some Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul have become the victims of extortion as unknown terrorist groups threaten to kill them or kidnap family members if they do not pay large sums of cash, said two Iraqi priests.

CLICK HERECatholic News Service reports that one 43-year-old Christian man, married with three children, "was killed last week because he didn't pay," said Dominican Fr Mekhail Nageeb of Nineveh, near Mosul.

After a group of unidentified men went to the man's workplace to extract money from him, "he tried not to pay and he ran out, so they killed him," said the Iraqi-born priest, who is the Dominicans' superior in Mosul.

Fr Nageeb said he knows about "more than 10 or 15 people" in Mosul who have been forced to pay exorbitant sums of money to anonymous groups who have threatened to kill the victim or abduct family members.

"It's a really catastrophic problem now," he said.

Chaldean Fr Sabah Patto, who was visiting Rome, told Catholic News Service that Christians are sometimes told they are paying a "protection tax."

He said the terrorists tell them, "We are protecting you, so you have to pay us."

Fr Patto, who was born in the northern Iraqi town of Zakho, has been responsible for the Chaldean community in Germany since 2002. Though he is based in Munich, he said he often hears news about what is happening to the Chaldean and other Christian communities in Iraq.

He said some Muslim religious leaders in Mosul were telling people to not buy homes or property from Christians "because they will become free (at no cost) for people" after the Christian owners are forced to flee the area.

Muslim elements "are encouraging the Christians to leave their country and to leave their properties and everything, and nobody is buying from them," Fr Patto said.

Fr Nageeb confirmed this was happening and said that in the neighborhood of al-Saha in Mosul, "there are more than 20 or 30 homes without people living in them" after the Christian homeowners left the country.

Priests say Iraqi Christians now victims of extortion, even death (Catholic News Service 7/11/05)

Chaldean Synod to Focus on Iraq and Liturgy (Zenit 3/11/05)
Chaldean synod should tackle Christian migration and evangelicals' proselytism, says Mgr Sako (AsiaNews.it 3/11/05)
Sandro Magister: How and Why Iraq Is Teaching a Lesson to the World - And to the Church (L'Espresso 31/10/05)

8 Nov 2005