Mosul Archbishop Was Ready for the Worse

Says Kidnapping Aimed at Americans

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MOSUL, Iraq, JAN. 19, 2005 ( Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa, the Syrian-Catholic prelate of Mosul, gave himself over to God, praying and ready for the «possibility that it might be the end.»

That is how he recalled his brief captivity that began Monday after he was seized by gunmen. Released a day later, the archbishop was welcomed by his Christian as well as Muslim friends. He spoke of his ordeal with AsiaNews.

Q: How were you abducted?

Archbishop Casmoussa: I had gone to see a family in one of the city’s neighborhoods. When I left at around 5:10 p.m., a car blocked the road and armed men seized me and pushed me into a car.

I spent the night in the place where they had taken me and then, in the morning, we talked. They told me that the Vatican and several news agencies had reported my disappearance. I then realized that my abduction was a coincidence.

When they realized who I was, things changed and they freed me around 12:30 p.m. After that I took a cab and came home. My captors treated me well.

Q: Were you afraid or confident during your hours of captivity?

Archbishop Casmoussa: In such a situation you expect the worse. I was calm and thought about the possibility that it might be the end for me. Thank God, it worked out for me.

I prayed all the time. I gave myself completely over to God and Providence. This morning I prayed for those I felt were praying for me.

Q: How did Mosul Muslims react to your abduction and liberation?

Archbishop Casmoussa: Muslim friends phoned to welcome me home. I have friends among the city’s Muslim notables and know many others.

Q: How can you explain your abduction?

Archbishop Casmoussa: I don’t think it was something anti-Christian. It think it was something done to get the Americans out of the country. There is no common ground between Iraqi Christians and the occupiers.

Q: Some say that such things never happened under Saddam Hussein, when Christians were free and respected.

Archbishop Casmoussa: There is no comparison possible. Under Saddam there was security but also a lot of injustice. What we want now is security to get home safe and sound.

Q: Will the elections be the start of Iraq’s renaissance?

Archbishop Casmoussa: We hope so, but only if there is a great turnout in an atmosphere of security, which currently does not exist in some regions.

Q: What can the international community do, and Europe in particular, to help Iraq?

Archbishop Casmoussa: It can put pressure on the U.S. to improve its policy toward Iraq and its people as well as set a timetable for withdrawing its troops.

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