Thursday, June 26, 2008

Death and the archbishop

So now we know what got Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, killed earlier this year: He wouldn't pay up anymore.

This is from the front page of the Times this morning. Not sure what to think yet -- other than that (with the possible exception of the photo they put above the fold) it's one of the more blood-boiling things I've seen in quite a while.

It's the flip-side, I guess, of the mass exodus of Iraqi Christians since the rise of the insurgency: Those who have stayed have been forced to pay handsomely for the privilege -- with the protection money becoming a major source of funding for Al Qaeda & Co.

I've been trying for a while to imagine myself in the shoes of one of those Iraqi priests -- and increasingly longing for the stark moral clarity of a deny-Christ-or-be-eaten-by-lions type deal.

I hope I could say with a straight face that I wouldn't pay; cooperating with that kind of evil just doesn't seem to fall under the rubric of "rendering unto Caesar." As for those who did: There's a kind of humbling relief that such a decision wasn't my cross to bear -- just as it's now not my place to judge.

Still, I can't help but be struck by the model of Archbishop Rahho. Who knows whether he felt any of the shame for making the payments that comes through from the other Christians in the article -- but it certainly didn't stop him from denouncing them as soon as he saw his opening. Probably a lesson there.

May his martyrdom be a powerful one -- especially in a climate that tosses that word around far too often.

Rest in peace.

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