Catholic agency in Iraq closes over threats

The Caritas agency in the Iraqi city of Mosul has been closed over threats to its staff and demands for contributions to the resistance against US occupation forces.

Citing a social worker who was forced to flee the city, AsiaNews reports that the recent difficulties of Caritas Mosul began in September this year when phone threats and demands began.

"First the caller recited a verse from the Koran and then asked us to give the group money to support resistance to the American occupation of Iraq," the woman told Asia News.

"We tried to explain to him that as Caritas, we do not have funds for our activities except donations from believers who help us to support only those who are most in need," she said.

"They told us that what we were saying was untrue and that the Church could give money, because the Church is rich."

Following a series of phone calls, the unidentified group issued an ultimatum for the delivery of "as high a sum of money as possible".

The group refused an eventual offer by Caritas to provide 1,000,000 Iraqi dinars for projects.

"Naturally this was not enough and they asked us to increase the sum but after the umpteenth refusal on our part, they were convinced and accepted the offer. We had no choice, but since then the centre had to close as it was impossible to continue in such conditions."

However, Caritas work continues in Baghdad, in Christian villages of Nineveh and in Kurdistan, Asia News concludes.

Another kidnapping

Meanwhile, Zenit reports fears by the Chaldean Church fears that a parish priest in Baghdad, missing since Sunday, has been kidnapped.

There has been no news of Father Douglas Al Bazi, pastor of the Mar Eliya Church.

"His mobile phones are disconnected and nobody, not even in the Chaldean Patriarchate, has heard anything of him since he left the church by car and without an escort," the blog Baghdadhope reported.

"Father Douglas could be the fourth priest kidnapped in Baghdad over five months and, although in other kidnappings the hostages have been released, still fresh is the memory of the terrible murder of Father Paul Iskandar, a Syro-Orthodox priest, kidnapped in Mosul last October and murdered the day after being kidnapped," reported the local sources.

Father Al Bazi has been the victim of violence several times. Last Jan. 29 he survived an attack against his parish church, Mar Mari, in the north of Baghdad.

Threats and extortion force Caritas Mosul to shut down (AsiaNews, 22/11/06)
Chaldean Priest Feared Kidnapped in Iraq (Zenit, 21/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Australia
Caritas International

More young Christian women abducted, raped in Iraq (12/10/06)
More Catholic church attacks across Asia (CathNews, 27/9/06)
Five churches bombed in Baghdad (CathNews, 18/10/04)
Baghdad Patriarch says 'we knocked, a door opened' (CathNews, 29/9/04)

23 Nov 2006