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After more than ten months in captivity, thirty-seven hostages were safely returned following extensive negotiations by the Assyrian Church of the East on their behalf, yet hundreds still remain in captivity and a historic Christian town is under siege.

11/13/2015 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – A month after releasing a video showing the execution of three Christian hostages, and threatening the killing of more, ISIS militants released a group of 37 Assyrian Christians who had been held in northeastern Syria since February. Yet, even as the news of these releases came, new reports emerged of another Christian town in the path of jihadist fighters and still hundreds of Christians still are under the rule of Islamic jihadists.

The release of these hostages was confirmed on Saturday, November 7, as the hostages arrived in the Assyrian city of Tel Tamar.

“The 37 hostages who were released, including 27 women and 10 men, were all elderly people,” Jamil Diabakerli, Director of the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights told International Christian Concern (ICC).

The oldest of the hostages was Mr. Nimrud Korya, age 80, from the village of Tel Shamiran. The youngest, was Salwa Royel, from Tel Jazira, age 49, according to the reports from the Assyrian International News Agency.

While the hostages have been kept in relatively good health, in comparison to the sexual abuse and slavery that ISIS has inflicted on other hostages, especially Yazidi young women, the situation is one of life and death.

It was just more than a month ago that ISIS published the gruesome video showing the execution of three hostages, Dr. Abdel-Maseeh Aniyah, Ashur Rustam Abraham and Bassam Issa Michael. Then three more were lined up in their place, with executioners standing at the ready, as the militants demanded payment of a ransom.

The Assyrian Church of the East which has been leading the negotiations has not publicized the details of the negotiations, but it is known that ISIS garners a large portion of its funding from kidnappings. The U.S. Treasury estimated more than $20 million in 2014 alone.

Yet for the families of those held hostage, it is an unthinkable choice to allow your loved ones to suffer when it is in your power to stop them.

These realities are why Middle Eastern Christians have been crying desperately for Western nations to take decisive action to protect their lives and their homelands.

“We are barely 3 million Assyrians globally and we are on a guaranteed path of extinction if we are not granted a semi-autonomous and internationally protected safe haven or state,” Nahren Anweya, an Assyrian American activist told ICC.

“It is crucial that we are not targeted any longer and the only solution is to be protected by multiple international nations who are not biased and who love Christianity and especially indigenous Assyrians. We demand for our hostages to be released and we deny to be used as collateral in any political and religious wars,” Anweya continued.

Yet, even as the hostages in Hassakeh are still being held, hundreds more are living under ISIS rule in Quaryatayn, and now another ancient Christian town is in the path of jihadist advance in southwestern Syria.

Sadad, which sits on a crucial highway connecting Homs and Damascus has been under siege since October 31. “Sadad is a center of heritage for Syria’s Christian minority, which made up approximately 10 percent of the country’s pre-war population,” an article for Syria Deeply highlighted. “It is home to several churches, including the Syriac Orthodox Church of St. Theodore and the Church of Mar Sarkis, which holds a number of rare 18th century Christian wall paintings.”

Mor Ignatius Aphrem Karim II, the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox church traveled to Sadad to encourage the defenders last week. In a statement after his visit, he described the situation.

“It is under assault,” Karim says. “IS advanced toward Sadad but they were not able to enter Sadad. The young people in Sadad, with the help of some armed groups, were able to fight back and push IS back to where they started.”

A Syriac Christian fighter in Sadad, who declined to be named for security reasons, told Newsweek: “People from all over Syria have arrived to fight for Sadad. It is a symbolic place for us and we will not allow it to fall again.”

The direct presence of Christian leaders at the frontlines and the need for mobilizing the defense forces across the country have demonstrated the level of threat which Christians are facing.

The defense forces are largely made up of those who care deeply about remaining in their homeland, yet, without a government that is able to provide protection, and with the defense forces not receiving the support of funding, weapons, and manpower those promises may not be kept.

For Christians in Syria, they are in a fight for their lives and for the presence of Christianity in a region that it has occupied for nearly 2,000 years.

They are desperately longing for peace that will allow them to live safely and securely.

For interviews, contact Olivia Miller, Press Manager: [email protected]

 

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