ICC Note: Although five years have passed since the kidnapping of two Syrian archbishops, no word has emerged regarding their fate. A report by the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights says that the kidnapping of clergy remains the number one challenge faced by Syrian church leaders. The civil war in Syria is now in its eighth year and most Christians have fled the country because of violence.
07/16/2018 Syria (Fox News) – It’s been more than five years now since the two most important figures in Syria’s Christian communities were kidnapped in a no-man’s land between rebel and regime-held territory, whisked away without a trace – and not heard from since.
It was broadly assumed Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Archbishop Boulos Yazigi – respective heads of the Syriac and Greek Orthodox Churches in Aleppo – were captured by ISIS or al-Qaeda, both of whom have a vicious history of persecuting Christians. But some of those who have investigated the case are now questioning the validity of that long-held theory, and asking if the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad might have been involved.
“I do not think ISIS is behind the kidnapping. There were no terrorist methods used. They were taken in a very professional manner,” Jamil Elias Diarbakerli, executive director of the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights, told Fox News. “No terrorist organization that can hide such important bishops as Ibrahim and Yazigi for five years without any real information leaking out.”
The archbishops were abducted on April 23, 2013, near the Syrian-Turkish, border while en route to negotiate with rebels on the release of two other missing priests – fathers Michael Kayyal and Maher Mahfouz. Those two were kidnapped that February, and have also not been heard from.
“Archbishop Boulos Yazigi was finishing a pastoral visit and they had agreed to travel back together in Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim’s car,” recalled Jeff King, President of International Christian Concern (ICC).
As the car neared Aleppo, their vehicle was stopped by four armed insurgents. They were forced out of their cars while their driver, Deacon Father Allah Kabboud – was immediately killed by assailants bearing “Caucasian” features, according to witnesses.
“Because the car and driver belonged to Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, it is widely believed that he was the primary target,” said King.
As the Syrian war was escalating at that time, Ibrahim had reportedly become the only high-ranking Christian prelate to call for Assad to step down. Just 10 days before his abduction, on April 13, he conducted a BBC interview in which he chastised the Assad government’s brutality in the then year-long conflict.
“I had at first hoped that this regime would be wiser than they are currently acting and that they would do something just to end the bloodshed,” Ibrahim said.
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