Two Syrian bishops were kidnapped on Monday by armed rebels in the northern province of Aleppo, according several sources. The Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, were seized in the village of Kfar Dael, on the road to Aleppo from the rebel-held Bab al Hawa crossing with Turkey and their driver shot. The two bishops are the most senior Church leaders caught up in the conflict, which has killed more than 70,000 people across Syria, reported Vatican Radio among other media.
According to AlJazeera, a Syriac member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Abdulahad 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 for their humanitarian and pastoral work when they were kidnapped, he added. Asked who was behind their abduction, Steifo said:”All probabilities are open.”
The director of the Vatican Press Office said in a statement that “the kidnapping of the two Metropolitan bishops of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, and the killing of their driver whilst they were carrying out a humanitarian mission, is a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian population and the Christian communities in Syria are living. The Holy Father has been informed of this recent, extremely grave act, which comes on top of the increasing violence of the past days and a humanitarian emergency of enormous proportions. Pope Francis is following the events with deep participation and he is praying for the health and the liberation of the two kidnapped bishops. He is also praying so that, with the support and prayers of all, the Syrian people may finally see tangible responses to the humanitarian drama and real hopes of peace and reconciliation rise on the horizon”.
Christians make up less than 10 percent of the country’s 23 million people. In September of last year, hundreds of Christian families fled Aleppo as rebels and soldiers battled for control of the city, which is the country’s largest. At the time, Bishop Ibrahim said, “In its modern history Aleppo has not seen such critical and painful times,” adding,“Christians have been attacked and kidnapped in monstrous ways.” explained Vatican Radio
As fighting continues, thousands of people continue to flee Syria. There are already more than 1.3 million refugees in camps across the borders and estimates say that nearly half of them are children, according to the data of Save the Children, which makes at least 650.000 children in refugee camps who need water, food, clothes and schools.
But then, the refugee camps and the neighboring countries are not a sure place either. Human Rights Watch asked recently that all parties to the conflict in Syria should stop indiscriminate cross-border attacks on inhabited areas in Lebanon.
“Both the Syrian government and armed opposition fighters, noted the organization in a report, have said their strikes in Lebanon are aimed at armed groups participating in hostilities in Syria from Lebanon. During visits to the affected villages, residents told Human Rights Watch there were no military targets near the strike sites. Human Rights Watch saw no signs of military targets during site visits within days of the strikes.”
“Even if fighters are present in Lebanon, there is no excuse for any warring party to conduct indiscriminate strikes on residential areas,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “All sides need to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians.” he said.
After 70,000 dead and 1.3 million refugees there is no end in sight in this Syrian war. The US is giving 123 million additional dollars to the somehow organized opposition against Bashar Al Assad for “non-lethal” material and wait for the EU to lift the ban of selling weapons to both sides, a measure that is worst for the opposition than the regime of Al Assad that has the Army, nonetheless the opposition groups have been proven increasingly armed and resilient. The Syrian National Coalition thinks that there is no way to negotiate with Al Assad and his Army anything but their exit, and the power would be taken by force. So the fight is guarantee for a long time.
In this situation, like always, the true victims are the civilians. The ones trapped in Syria and the ones trapped in refugee camps around. Wars like this one also are a free path to sectarian violence and vendettas. People are afraid of the bombings and attacks of the Al Assad forces or the rebels but also, in the middle of the chaos of violence, are afraid of the attacks on minorities like Christians. The Syrian National Coalition has said that is against terrorism and its acting president George Sabra, is already working for the release of the two abducted bishops.
Now they have to prove that they want to guarantee the security and rights of all Syrians in all that is in their power if they want to be a replacement to the Al Assad Regime and reach a future of peace in Syria with Shias, Sunnis, Christians and ethnic minorities. But for that goal they have to reach peace, stop the violence, alone or with the help of other countries, and there is,at this moment, a too long way for that.
- Gunmen abduct bishops in Syria (bbc.co.uk)
- Syria opposition chief ‘seeking release of bishops’ (dailystar.com.lb)