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Syria’s War on Christians: Where Are the Missing Bishops, Priests and Nuns?

ICC Note: There are serious questions still being asked about the fate of Syrian religious leaders who have been kidnapped across the country over the past year. For many of them the details about their present situation remain unclear. Two prominent bishops taken last April remain missing. A group of nuns was “forcibly evacuated” and held just a month ago. These are just a few of the incidents occurring within Syria that raise serious concern about the objectives of those fighting against Bashar al-Assad and what kind of Syria they are hoping to create. Based on the actions so far it appears to be one increasingly hostile towards Christians.

By Palash Ghosh

01/15/2014 Syria (IB Times) - The relentless carnage and horror that has engulfed Syria over the past two and a half years has taken a particularly heavy toll on the country’s Christian minority. An unknown number of civilians, including religious figures, have been kidnapped or killed or remain missing, in a conflagration that seems to have no end.

Last April two Christian bishops were abducted near the town of Aleppo in northern Syria near the Turkish border and haven’t been heard from since. A deacon named Fathallah Kabud drove through a checkpoint near Aleppo last year with two bishops, John Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, in an attempt to help secure the release of two priests who had earlier been kidnapped. Ibrahim had been successful in similar prior negotiations, having freed about two dozen hostages, both Christian and Muslim.

The National Review reported that in the summer of 2012, when control for Aleppo began in earnest, many foreign jihadists from places as far away as the Caucasus had come to Syria to join the war against the brutal military of President Bashar Assad, allegedly on the side of the Free Syrian Army, Assad’s opponents. However, these Islamist warriors differed greatly from the FSA and have allied themselves with such fundamentalist extremists as al Qaeda. When Kabud, Ibrahim and Yazigi (all unarmed) went through the checkpoint near Aleppo, a group of men, reportedly wearing Central Asian garb and probably Chechens, descended upon the vehicle, took Kabud away at gunpoint and executed him. The whereabouts of the two bishops remains a mystery, but the Catholic News Agency reported last month that there are rumors that only one of the abducted bishops is still alive and the other is being kept somewhere in Syria or possibly Turkey.

Other Christian clergy have also been abducted in the war-torn country. Last month, the Catholic News Agency reported that an Orthodox bishop in Syria called for Islamist rebels to release a dozen nuns who'd been kidnapped. “We’ve now reached the point where even nuns are being abducted. What have they done wrong? It’s a crime. The abductors want to demonstrate that they show no mercy,” Bishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, the Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama, told Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic pastoral charity.

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