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Iraq: Kidnappers Murder Church Elder in Mosul

Tuesday, December 5, 2006 | Tag Cloud

(Compass Direct News) -- Grieving Christians in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul completed three days of mourning for a murdered Presbyterian Church elder yesterday, only hours before another Iraqi clergyman was grabbed off the streets of Baghdad this morning.

The martyred churchman, identified only as 69-year-old Elder Munthir, had been kidnapped after leading worship services at the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Mosul on November 26. His body was found four days later.

He is the second Iraqi Christian clergyman to be murdered in Mosul within the past two months.

Under mounting terrorist threats targeting all of Mosul’s Christian community, local sources only spoke to Compass under conditions of strict anonymity.

According to eyewitnesses in Mosul, the Protestant church elder was cornered by two cars in front of his home at 11 a.m. as he returned from Sunday worship.

“One of the passengers had a pistol, and we saw them taking him and putting him into the trunk of the car,” an observer told Compass.

The captors contacted Elder Munthir’s family later that day, using his mobile telephone to confirm that they had kidnapped him. Initially demanding US$1 million in ransom, the kidnappers negotiated over the next three days with their captive’s relatives and friends.

According to one Mosul source who described the kidnappers’ conversations, “They said, ‘We have him, and we will kill him. We will cut his throat. We will take revenge for the Pope’s words. We will take revenge on all of you. We will kill all the Christians, and we will start with him.’”

The source said the kidnappers were “aggressive and mean,” but that “the people in these extreme Islamist groups do not represent true Islam.”

Although the kidnappers told a negotiator on Wednesday afternoon that the elder’s safe return was “nearly solved,” they then cut off communication with anyone.

On Thursday morning (November 30), the elder’s body was discovered thrown on a street in Mosul, killed by a single bullet to his head. Local forensic experts estimated the time of his death at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening (November 29).

Since 1974, Elder Munthir had served in various ministries of the Presbyterian Church in Iraq, which named him an elder in 2000. He was the sixth generation of his family to serve in Mosul’s Presbyterian Church, established in 1840 by 10 local Christian families.

Two months ago, he had been threatened by telephone that if he went to his church again he would be killed, local sources said.

“Nobody on earth can prevent me from going to my church,” he told the anonymous caller before he hung up. The next day, he went back to church and preached a sermon on God’s love.

“When he was kidnapped on Sunday, I was so terrified and troubled,” one member of Elder Munthir’s congregation said. “But then I opened my Bible to the book of Job, where the devil asked God to stop protecting Job. God allowed the devil to touch Job’s family, his money, his body and his health, but not his soul. I believe that Jesus died to protect [Munthir], so the devil couldn’t touch his soul.”

The day after Elder Munthis was buried, one Mosul Christian told Compass that many of the church leader’s friends felt it was too dangerous to attend his funeral.

“This is a very big tragedy for us,” the Christian source said. “It is really getting much worse here. We really need your prayers.”

Several more Christians have been reported kidnapped in Mosul since his abduction and murder.

“We will never just pray, ‘God, save us from this,’” one local Christian declared. “But we will pray also, ‘God, show us your will in this.’

“Munthir was an elder in our church, and he served God for 40 years. But God allowed him to be killed. If God wanted him to be alive, He was able to do it. It is not a matter of God’s protection.”

An electrical engineer by profession, Elder Munthir is survived by his wife and four children.

Priest Abducted

Baghdad’s Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate confirmed that Father Samy Abdulahad was kidnapped this morning from his car as he left his church in the Al-Sinaa district of the capital, near the University of Technology.

According to Ankawa.com, an Iraqi Christian news website, the patriarchate issued an appeal today to release the priest, a professor of theology at the Chaldean Babel Seminary.

“It’s terrible,” Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako said from Kirkuk. “Babel Seminary was supposed to open tomorrow.” The theological school had delayed its fall opening for several months due to Baghdad’s rising violence.

“As Christians, we are giving a lot of martyrs, a lot of blood for Jesus’ name here in Iraq,” one Iraqi Christian told Compass over the weekend.

Civilian casualties in Iraq jumped by 44 percent during November compared with the previous month, the Iraqi Interior Ministry reported on Friday (December 1). Although official data confirmed at least 1,850 Iraqi civilian deaths last month, U.N. calculations more than doubled that figure.

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