Aleppo Spokesman: No News on Syrian Archbishops
Fears Grow for Their Safety Now a Week After Kidnapping
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A spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo says there is still no news about the two Syrian archbishops kidnapped a week ago, on April 22.
The spokesman, who asked not to be named for security reasons, spoke today with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
"We still do not know where the two archbishops are or who has taken them," he told the charity, speaking from Syria. "There are many Christians being kidnapped now and this is the first time where we have absolutely no clue about what has happened, where nobody has taken responsibility for the abduction.
“This is of course very worrying – especially as we are now on day eight since [the kidnapping] happened.”
Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulos Yagizi and Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were abducted some five miles west of Aleppo, the city to which they were returning after traveling to the Turkish border to negotiate the release of two priests – Fathers Michael Kayyal and Maher Mahfouz – kidnapped on Feb. 9. The archbishops' driver, Deacon Fatha’ Allah Kabboud, was killed.
Even if the archbishops are being held in a safe location, there is concern for the health of Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Ibrahim, who takes medication for high blood pressure and diabetes, and is not thought to have had the medication with him when he was taken.
The diocesan spokesman said that Church leaders were combating pressure from the Christian community who, he said, were calling for demonstrations to appeal for the archbishops’ release, a move which he said could antagonise the kidnappers.
Saying that services and prayer vigils were taking place including one broadcast on Syrian TV, he added: “The Christians are worried and want to express their anger about what has happened.
“But every step should be carefully studied – we have to think about what the response will be from the kidnappers.”
He went on to appeal for continuing international pressure for the archbishops’ release.
Stressing the prelates’ high status, he said he was hopeful that diplomatic intervention would prove effective.
The spokesman said, “So far, the international community has done very well in putting pressure. We do not want that pressure to subside – government, civil society, churches and NGOs – different levels of help might help.”
He called on Christians “and all people of good will” to pray for the archbishops’ release.
“What is so sad about this," he concluded, "is that both men were among those working hardest for peace and yet in this time of conflict they are among those paying the highest price.”