Another church leader has been kidnapped in Syria. The latest prominent church official to be taken was Italian Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio. The priest had spent much of the past thirty years serving the people of Syria. Kidnapping continues to be a danger for the countries Christian community. In the past money was the primary motivation behind most kidnappings. It now appears that Islamic extremists have taken to targeting Christians and using kidnapping, or worse, to force conversions.
8/5/2013 Syria (Morning Star News) – The disappearance last week of an Italian Jesuit priest in Syria following the kidnapping of two other clergymen in April reflects the dangers Christians face in the war-torn country.
The Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, who spent three decades in Syria before the Syrian government deported him last year for helping victims of President Bashar al-Assad’s military crackdown, re-entered the country in late July. His mission, according to published reports: Implore leaders of the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in Raqqa to release hostages and to negotiate peace between Islamist militants and Kurds. He was reported missing on July 29.
His mission was dangerous but he had good relations with rebel groups, and his disappearance has prompted varied speculation, especially after Reuters reported that ISIS kidnapped him.
In the priest’s three decades in Syria he had labored to heal divisions between the country’s religious and ethnic factions. Abdelrazzag Shlas, an opposition activist in Raqqa, has said ISIS was angered by the priest’s condemnation of violence against Kurdish residents of Tal Abyad.
Dall’Oglio’s disappearance comes three months after the kidnapping of the Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox archbishops of Aleppo. Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church and Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church were kidnapped near the village of Kafr Dael on April 22 while returning from the Turkish border on a humanitarian relief trip.
The abduction happened on the road to Aleppo from the rebel-held Bab al Hawa Province, where gunmen intercepted their vehicle and killed the driver. The clergymen’s fate is unknown.
Initially kidnappings of Christians in Syria were largely aimed at seeking ransom. But as Al Qaeda-linked groups established themselves in areas with sizable Christian populations, they began targeting Christians, threatening that they must convert to Islam or face rape, torture, murder and other aggression, said Middle Eastern Analyst Ahmad Majidyar of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).