Tuesday, April 23, 2013

News report states bishops released

I have no corroboration for this and, in fact, I have seen statements claiming this report of release is false.

(Aljazeera) - Two Syrian bishops who were reportedly kidnapped carrying out humanitarian work in the northern province of Aleppo have been released, according to a Christian association.

SANA news agency said the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, were seized on Monday in the village of Kfar Dael.

A Syriac member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Abdulahad Steifo, said the men had been kidnapped on the road to Aleppo from the rebel-held Bab al Hawa crossing with Turkey.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said the kidnapping "has sent a lot of concern to the Christian community in Aleppo and throughout Syria".

"They are afraid of the rising power among Islamist groups; many [Christians] have left the country as battles raged in the last six months. This is just another sign of a deteriorating situation for them."

Several prominent Muslim clerics have been killed in Syria's uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, but the two bishops are the most senior church leaders caught up in the conflict.

Christians make up less than ten per cent of the country's 23 million people and, like other religious minorities, many have been wary of the mainly Sunni Muslim uprising against Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of the Shia sect.

Fears for their future if the rebels were to end 40 years of Assad dynastic rule, which ensured religious freedom without political rights, have increased with the growing strength of rebels and a pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda by the hardline Nusra Front rebels two weeks ago.

Steifo said Ibrahim had gone to collect Yazigi from the rebel-held Bab al-Hawa crossing because he had crossed there several times before and was familiar with the route.

The two men were driving to Aleppo when they were kidnapped, he added.

Asked who was behind their abduction, Steifo said: "All probabilities are open."

Last September, Ibrahim said that hundreds of Christian families had fled Aleppo as rebels and soldiers battled for control of the country's biggest city.

"In its modern history Aleppo has not seen such critical and painful times ... Christians have been attacked and kidnapped in monstrous ways and their relatives have paid big sums for their release," he told Reuters.

In the central city of Homs, which saw the heaviest bloodshed earlier this year, he said several churches and Christian centres had been damaged in the fighting.

"Until a few months ago the idea of escaping had not crossed the minds of the Christians, but after the danger worsened it has become the main topic of conversation."


  1. The Patriarchate is saying that this information is premature. I've aggregated links (with some translations) of info as it comes out here: http://araborthodoxy.blogspot.com/2013/04/early-reports-of-bishops-release.html

  2. And the Antiochian Archdiocese has released a statement saying that reports of the bishops' release are false: http://www.antiochian.org/release-reports-false

  3. Following Samn!'s araborthdoxy link above can eventually get you to a good English language article (by following links on a Greek website). For those who don't read Greek (including me), the address of the page where I found it is: http://www.wca-ngo.org/humanrightsfiles/the-syria-crises/417-two-archbishops-kidnapped-in-syria