Date: May 23, 2013
By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (BosNewsLife)-- Christians in war-torn Syria have marked one month since the kidnapping of two bishops near the Turkish border with a new appeal for their release, amid mounting concerns about the leaders' safety and health.
"We are still living the nightmare of the abduction...of our two Archbishops Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo and Boulos Yazaji, Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo," their churches said in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife, Thursday, May 23.
An "unknown group" abducted the two men April 22, "without claiming its responsibility until now, neither announcing the reasons for the abduction nor knowing their place," they added.
"We renew our request for the abductors to revise their action, fear God, and release the two Archbishops without hurting their health or physical situation, and release all other abducted priests and innocent civilians."
The absence of the leaders is also hurting their denominations at a time when some 80,000 people have died in the the ongoing 26-month-old civil war, according to local churches.
"We the Syriac and the Greek Orthodox Archdioceses of Aleppo and in coordination with our two Patriarchates in Damascus, express day after day our sadness and increasing pain about the abduction and the absence of these two eminent Prelates".
The two denominations said the two leaders are known for their their active spiritual and social role in Syria, including "the humanitarian work which they were carrying within the current crisis which is engulfing" the nation.
"The continuous abduction of the two archbishops is damaging the structure of Syria in its diverse components and its long history of coexistence and citizenship," the churches warned.
"Such a catastrophe will be remembered and recorded in history, likewise the devastating and the grieve of Syria."
However they stressed that "such acts will not terrify us because we are the sons of the “Resurrection”, a reference to Jesus Christ who Christians believe rose up from death after being crucified so anyone who believes in Him has everlasting life.
The churches expressed regret however that despite "all the prayers" and pressure from churches and Muslim groups, the kidnapping continues.
However, "We trust that the mercy of the one God whom we all believe in, will guide the abductors and induce them to release the Archbishops without any pre-conditions, because no price equals the freedom of the two archbishops and no condition equals their safe return to their communities and churches."
The churches said that they "renew" their "supplication" and "prayers" for the release of the two leaders. The kidnapping has added to concerns that growing Islamic extremism will further impact the besieged Christian minority.
Syriac Catholic Bishop Gregoire Melki said in published remarks that the conflict has left people very anxious and that hristians fear a similar situation as fellow believers in Iraq. "Growing extremism in Syria could jeopardize the safety of all Christians," Melki told the Assyrian International News Agency. "Those who can, escape … For more than two years there has not been a solution (to the violence) we have to pray."
With violence between rebels and pro-government forces intensifying, the UN refugees agency says over 1.5 million Syrians, including Christians, are now known to have joined the exodus with the largest flows into neighboring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.