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You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgement is God’s.

Deuteronomy 1:17b (NRSV)

Ashur Yacob Issa and Arkan Jehad Jacob (2011)
Kidnap Targets

These two Iraqi Christians were killed within the space of just over two weeks in May 2011.

Ashur Yacob Issa, a 29-year-old construction worker, was kidnapped in Kirkuk on 13 May. The captors contacted Ashur’s family the day after his disappearance and demanded a $100,000 ransom for his release. When they failed to pay this hefty sum, Ashur’s decapitated body was found dumped on the morning of the 16th. The husband and father had clearly been subjected to extensive torture by his attackers. A senior Iraqi church leader, who suspected that radical Islamists were behind the crime, said, “The murder was meant to intimidate Christians so that in the future they will more readily pay ransom demands.”

Iraqi Christians are frequently targeted in this manner. Before his death, the second victim, Arkan Jehad Jacob, had managed to evade two kidnapping attempts by assailants who seemingly wanted to extort ransom money from his family. The deputy director of a cement factory was shot dead in Mosul, northern Iraq, on the morning of 30 May. He was killed instantly by unidentified gunmen who fired at him repeatedly, using weapons fitted with silencers, before fleeing the scene. It appeared that they had been lying in wait to execute Arkan, a married father of four, as he drove to work.

Christians are frequent victims of such ransom attempts because it is known that they will not retaliate and are thus considered easy targets for gaining money. The attacks are also part of a wider Islamist campaign to “cleanse” the country of all Christians by intimidation and violence.

Always keep in mind the grievous afflictions of those stricken with sorrow and tribulations, that you may render due thanks for the small and insignificant adversities, which may happen to you, and be able to bear them with joy.

Isaac of Syria (7th century)