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The Battle for Syria


No Word Yet on the Fate of Two Syrian Christian Bishops Kidnapped by Jihadis

April 28th 2013

Bishop Boulos Yzigi and Bishop John Ibrahim

For the first time in their history, the patriarch of the Antiochian Orthodox Church has asked Christians to adorn their traditional Palm Sunday processions with black ribbons tied on candles rather than the usual white ribbons expressing their sadness over the fat of two abducted church leaders from Aleppo, Syria. Alluding to the wave of anti-Christian persecution in Muslim-dominated countries, the patriarch said that the date on which Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter comes “at a time when we are being surrounded by much pain and suffering”.

It was on April 22 that the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi of Aleppo and Alexandretta and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo were abducted while travelling en route to Aleppo by unknown assailants after returning from a humanitarian mission near the Turkish border region. Their driver, Fatha’ Allah Kabboud, a deacon in the Syriac Orthodox Church, was killed in the incident.

Syrian Christians of all denominations were shocked by the news. When false reports emerged of the release of the two clerics, believers streamed to the respective cathedrals of the bishops and joyously expected their return. However, no word has yet emerged about their whereabouts or welfare.In a pastoral letter issued on April 27, His Beatitude John X, the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East, said “let our processions be this year with candles tied with black ribbons, chanting the hymn: ‘To Thee O Champion Leader…,’ instead of the hymn ‘Rejoice O Bethany.’”

For Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches around the world Palm Sunday is celebrated on April 28, since they count time according to the Julian calendar. While they will celebrate Easter on May 5, Protestant and Catholic Christians celebrated the feast of the Resurrection on March 31. 

“Since we are the children of the Resurrection, we are not afraid of whoever takes violence as a way to achieve his purpose,” John X wrote in his letter. “To be killed, or kidnapped, or to have our institutions destroyed, will not change our resolve to uphold our civil life and our co-existence; to cling to our homeland and to seek the reign of justice and rights in our homelands.”

John X urged theworld to do everything it can to secure the safety and release of the two archbishops.  He also called for a quick solution to the conflict in Syria. “There is no news about the kidnapping from the churches in the region,” Michel Nseir, World Council of Churches program executive for the Middle East said on April 27. “We are in permanent contact with them, and we continue to pray that our two Archbishops will be released.”

Toward the end of his letter John X wrote, “In this time, let us exceptionally intensify our prayers and supplications. Just as our Lord was not afraid to walk the path of Calvary; in the same way we are invited to walk with Him along this path.”  

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) urged on April 27 an "unconditional" release of the two bishops. The Greek Orthodox church, for its part, has fingered "Chechen jihadists" as the culprits.

Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent Martin Barillas also edits Speroforum.com

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