Iraq (MNN) — In an unusual turn of events, a kidnapped Chaldean priest was freed Monday night in Iraq. Open Doors' USA president Carl Moeller: "Although he was held for ransom, he was released, relatively unharmed, although he was, in his own words, 'tortured a little bit.'"
Moeller says Nawzat Hanna is the sixth Chaldean priest to be kidnapped and released in Baghdad during the past year. Compass Direct reports that in the past, other priests kidnapped in the capital were subsequently transferred to Northern Iraq or abroad because of the high security risk.
Moeller links the insecurities to reports of a continued Christian exodus. Christian sources, including the kidnapped priests themselves, have told Compass that the clergymen were captured, in part, to force Baghdad's Christians out of the city. "We estimate that there are less that 450,000 believers left in Iraq," explains Moeller, adding, "Many of them are internally displaced, as well."
Although he couldn't say why the priest was released or if the ransom demanded was paid, he says the situation highlights the dilemma faced by those in ministry in Iraq. Muslim militias have begun demanding jizya (an Islamic tax levied on non-Muslims) from Christians in several areas of Baghdad.
The majority of Christians remaining in Baghdad are those without the means to travel abroad or to Iraq's northern region where the cost of living has skyrocketed in recent months.
As a result, Moeller says, "Many of these congregations are feeling completely cut off from the outside world. We need to pray that they will feel God's presence through the prayers of His people around the world." Click here for more information.