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Iraqi Christians Say No to Death Sentence

Al-Qaeda leader should be punished, but the late archbishop wouldn't have wanted his abductor executed.

Whatever you think about the morality of the death penalty in general, you've got to admire the leaders of the Chaldean Christians in Iraq. In a land that is torn by ethnic and religious power struggles - a place where memories of past travesties are nurtured for the sake of political advantage - these Christians have responded in a very Christian manner to the Iraqi Central Criminal Court's death sentence for the Al Qaeda leader who abducted and perhaps killed their archbishop.

Paulos Faraj Rahho was kidnapped February 29. His body was discovered March 13. (The cause of death is still uncertain, since Rahho suffered from a heart condition and his body appeared not to have been shot.)

Compass Direct offers this report of church leaders' response to the death sentence:

Speaking from Baghdad, Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni said that Ahmed should be punished for his crime but that executing him would be pointless.

"If somebody is killed I think there is no use in it for the Iraqi people," the Chaldean church leader said. "Our principles are love and pardon and reconciliation."

Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako openly condemned the sentence.

"We are not satisfied with this decision, because the church is against the death penalty," he told Agence France-Presse yesterday.

An AKI (AdnKronosInternational) news item added these quotes from Warduni:

"We pursue peace, security and reconciliation in Iraq, all the things that Monsignor Rahho fought for during his life," said Shlemon Warduni, current auxiliary bishop in Baghdad, quoted by the Italian bishop's conference news agency SIR on Monday.


"Monsignor Rahho, would not have accepted the sentence. Christian principles say it is not allowed to sentence someone to death, and instead it invites us to forgiveness, reconciliation and justice."

In that cultural and historical context, with a seeming endless pattern of violence and vengeance, that is a costly and credible witness to Jesus and his teaching: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."

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