There’s no sign that the abductors of two Orthodox bishops kidnapped four days ago near Aleppo have released them, despite numerous reports about their liberation. A source, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews, “Nothing; there’s nothing; only unreliable reports. We can talk about their release only when the two bishops are in front of us and can talk to us”. On Monday, gunmen abducted Bishop Youhanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Diocese of Aleppo, and archbishop Boulos Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox diocese of the same city, in Kafr Dael, 10 kilometres (@6.25 miles) from Aleppo, on the Turkish border. The kidnapers killed their driver, a Syriac Orthodox deacon. According to information from the Orthodox Church, the two prelates were negotiating the release of two priests, Fr Michel Kayyal (Armenian Catholic) and Fr Maher Mahfouz (Greek Orthodox), seized in February and still in the hands of kidnappers, even though a ransom was paid for their release.
Damascus pinned the kidnapping of the two bishops on “terrorist groups”. Some sources blamed Chechen jihadists for the abduction. Instead, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the main armed opposition force, accused Syrian troops. Whatever happened, what’s certain is that their abductors kidnapped the two bishops in a rebel-held area, so, opposition officials said that they’d do what they could to ensure their release. Our source told AsiaNews, “However, the release is taking its time, and this is worrisome”. As time goes by, fears are growing that something went wrong. Our source said, “The more time goes by, the worse it gets”. Some fear that the abduction might be a way to force the Church and Christians to take sides. So far, only the UN and the Vatican continue to call for political talks as the only way to end the civil war.
On Wednesday, as he mentioned the two kidnapped bishops, Pope Francisco Bergoglio called “for an end to the bloodshed”, for the delivery of “necessary humanitarian assistance to the population”, and for a quick “political solution to the crisis”. In a joint public statement, the Syriac and Greek Orthodox Patriarchates of Antioch, to which the two kidnapped bishops belong, emphasised that the two prelates were “messengers of peace”, as demonstrated by their “religious, social, and national work”. On this basis, the Patriarchates called on all Churches in the world to reject “all kinds of violence hitting people living in the East”. Similarly, they called on “our partners in citizenship, from all Islamic confessions, to stand hand-in-hand and work together, to repudiate human exploitation and the dehumanisation of man, to not use people as a shield in battle or as a means for monetary or political bribery”. The abduction of the two bishops came at a time when Western governments are increasingly convinced that they must arm the Syrian rebels and the CIA is certain that the Assad régime used nerve gas, a conclusion that could push the USA towards military intervention in Syria.
26 April 2013
That’s where it stands now… nobody knows nothing, no way, no how… nobody knows a bloody thing. However, the longer that it drags on is not to the good. As the AsiaNews source said, “The more time goes by, the worse it gets”. Light a candle for Bishops Youhanna and Boulos at Liturgy on Sunday and have your priest pray for them… that’s all that any of us can do at present. As I said, the total amount of verified intel on these guys is ZIPPO… don’t build castles in the air.