Plight of Missing Archbishop and Syrian Civil War Highlighted with Song and Book


Date:                              March 20, 2016

By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )  

MarGregoriosLONDON, UK (ANS -- March 20, 2016) --  On April 22, 2013, both the Greek and Syriac Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi and Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, were kidnapped in Syria near the Turkish border. Their driver, Deacon Fatha' Allah Kabboud, was killed.

Almost three years later, the bishops remain missing.

A 2015 story by the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported that the bishops were abducted on their way back from the Turkish border.

They were negotiating the release of two priests, Fathers Michael Kayyal and Maher Mahfouz, who had themselves been kidnapped in Feb. 2013.

Since then, nothing has been heard.

Fast forward almost three years to Jan. 2016 when gospel singer and human rights activist Garth Hewitt  was in Swanwick (a Derbyshire village in the United Kingdom) at the Conference of Christians Aware doing a concert.

In an email obtained by the ASSIST News Service, Hewitt said it was there that his friend Aziz Nour asked to talk with him about Mar Gregorios.

Nour, a member of the Syrian Orthodox Church, was with the Archbishop the morning he left.

Hewitt said Nour asked the Archbishop not to go as he felt it was unwise. However, the Archbishop compelled to work for the release of his priests.

Although there’s been no news about the Archbishops or the priests, Hewitt said many people believe they are still alive because they could be exchanged for large sums of money.

Garth Hewitt speaking at a rallyHe added, “Aziz is pretty sure that they are with either ISIS or the Al-Nusra Front. In either case, that is an alarming thought.”

Hewitt said Nour put together a book of comments from Christian leaders around the world, particularly those who knew Mar Gregorios, and asked him to write a song about him for inclusion in the book.

Garth continued, “I was hesitant at first, as it seemed quite a big task and difficult to get it right. Aziz wanted it to be a song where people would be able to (remember and) sing the chorus.”

However, once the hesitancy was overcome, inspiration flowed. That was important, as Hewitt had to write the song quickly in order to meet the deadline for the book, scheduled for release on April 22 2016.

Hewitt said, “As I read the words of different people talking about the Archbishop, I felt I caught a glimpse of him. And I often felt moved, and lit candles and prayed for these captives.”

Everything continued to fall into place as needed. Hewitt said while in Braunton, North Devon for a weekend, he discovered the vicar of the parish church in Georgeham, Mike Newbon, had been manager of ICC Christian recording studios for many years, and now had a small studio in his house. The song was recorded right there.

It also became a family affair. Hewitt said his daughter-in-law is a talented singer, and helped with the backing vocals.

He added, “We then brought in her three children - my grandchildren Harley, Caitlin and Aisha, and they also sang beautifully.”

Hewitt told me by email, “I think it is very important to get the word out for Mar Gregorios and Paul Yazigi and all the others who are suffering. St. Augustine said that when we sing we pray twice.  I hope people can sing along to this or simply listen, and be praying twice for the Archbishop and the others. Let’s also pray for all our suffering sisters and brothers in Christ, as well as the other minorities who are being appallingly treated.”

Hewitt said the song is available as a free download. He said he hopes it will help people think about the situation of the Archbishops and others who are captive, as well as encouraging them to pray for the ancient churches of the Middle East.

Here are the lyrics.

“Come home Mar Gregorios - we wait for you each day
Come home Mar Gregorios - come and show the way
You're our shepherd, you're our prophet, you're our peacemaker too
Come home Mar Gregorios - we wait and pray for you.
Mar Gregorios, Mar Gregorios
Mar Gregorios, Lord hear our cry
Mar Gregorios, Mar Gregorios
Mar Gregorios, Lord hear our cry.
There's a stone wall of silence since you've been away
A stone wall of silence - let's roll that stone away
We need you - so we're waiting for your resurrection day
Come home Mar Gregorios - let's roll that stone away.
Mar Gregorios, Mar Gregorios
Mar Gregorios, Lord hear our cry
Come home Mar Gregorios - to this deeply wounded place
Archbishop of Aleppo - bring your music and your grace
Bring Archbishop Paul Yazigi, and the other captives too
Come home Mar Gregorios - bring them all with you.
Mar Gregorios, Mar Gregorios
Mar Gregorios, Lord hear our cry.”

In addition, Hewitt added, he hopes people will also remember all people, whether minorities like the Yazidis, the Shia, and Alawites, or the Sunni majority who continue to suffer.

An Oct. 2015 article from The Huffington Post said the war has claimed more than 250,000 people.

According to the CNA, there are 3.9 million Syrian refugees in nearby countries, most of them in Turkey and Lebanon, and an additional 8 million Syrian people are believed to have been internally displaced by the war.

Photo captions: 1) Archbishop Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim. 2) Garth Hewitt speaking at a huge rally in London. 3) Jeremy and Elma Reynalds on their wedding day.

Jeremy and Elma wedding dayAbout the writer: Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "From Destitute to Ph.D." Additional details on "From Destitute to Ph.D." are available at Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, Elma. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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