On Monday 22 April 2013, today 200 days ago, two prominent Archbishops from the Syriac and Melkite (Greek) Orthodox Churches were abducted between Kafer Dael and Mansura, in one of the most dangerous areas in Syria known as the frontline between the Free Syrian Army and the regular army. Their car was intercepted and the driver, Mr Fatha’ Allah Kabboud, was cold-bloodedly shot dead, either during or shortly after the assault. The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”) asks the international community for urgent help.
200 days have passed, and the Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo, H.E. Gregorius Hanna Ibrahim, and H.E. Boulos al-Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo and Iskenderun, are still missing. Despite contradictory reports and rumours which have been circulating since their abduction, the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”) affirms that there is still no clear information about the identity of the kidnappers, their motivation and demands, their whereabouts or, most importantly, the condition of the two Bishops.
The facts show that the responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of the two Archbishops lies with the Syrian opposition, particularly given that they were in military and civil control of the area where the abduction took place. Daniel Gabriel, the WCA Human Rights and UN NGO Director, remarks in this regard: “The disappearance of these spiritual leaders has shocked and frightened the Christians in Syria who, as we have seen in the recent months, continue to be targeted by militant Muslims and flee their homeland. We ask the global community to address and prioritize this case, especially with the rebel groups, in order to halt the ongoing mass exodus of the Christians from the Near East, a catastrophe which we have witnessed before in the last decades in Turkey and Iraq.”
“This abduction case,” declares the WCA President Johny Messo, “sends out a twofold message. First, it tells Aramean Christians that they must abandon their homes and succumb to this politically motivated act of terror, aimed at driving Syria’s native people out of their ancestral homeland. Second, it signals to the belligerent Muslims that threats, kidnappings, rapes and killings can be perpetrated with complete impunity before the eyes of a lethargic international community.”
The WCA and its Member Federations continue to meet with Ministers, UN Ambassadors and other high-ranking officials in an effort to get the church leaders released from the hands of the terrorists. We will persistently ask the international community and rebel forces to step up their efforts to intervene in this case until the spiritual fathers have returned home safe and well.
The WCA urges the media to give the abduction case and the dwindling presence of the Christians in Syria and the Middle East the amount of attention they deserve. We ask for the intervention and support from governments, religious leaders of all faiths, NGOs and media outlets in these issues. Finding the church leaders will send the right message to all Christians across the Middle East to not lose hope in their lonely struggle for survival in their native homelands.
The recent attacks by militant Muslims against women, children and elderly civilians in defenceless towns like Maaloula and Sadad have led to their destruction and transformation into ghost towns. Thousands of Christian families have fled their homes, many of which have been destroyed along with their business, while many hundreds of families were held hostage and used as human shields. Syria’s Christians, who are increasingly yet silently fleeing their homeland, continue to be appalled by the deafening silence of the world on such unpunished crimes against humanity.
H.E. Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, the Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama, cried out: “What happened in Sadad is the largest massacre of Christians in Syria and the second largest in the Middle East, after the one that took place during the Sunday evening liturgy on 31 October 2010. We have shouted ‘help us’ to the world, but no one has listened to us. Where is the Christian conscience? Where is human consciousness?”
Commenting on the murder of the discovered Aramean family thrown down a small well in Sadad, Syria’s Melkite (Greek Catholic) Patriarch Gregorios III was shocked and astonished, responding to a reporter: “How can somebody do such inhumane and bestial things to an elderly couple and their family? I do not understand why the world does not raise its voice against such acts of brutality.”
It is five to twelve, the extinction of native Aramaic Christianity in Syria is imminent. The time has come for politicians and reporters to fearlessly stand up for the truth, bring to justice the perpetrators of such cowardly crimes against humanity and those who support them, and help Syria’s Christians and other threatened minorities to stay in the land of their ancestors. The WCA urgently calls upon the UN Security Council, the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to adopt a strong Resolution on these ongoing war crimes.
The Syriac and Melkite (Greek) Orthodox Churches belong to the largest Christian communities in the country. Until 2011, the Christians constituted 10% (2,3 million) of the national population. Since then, 500,000 Christians have fled war-torn Syria. The Syriac Orthodox have retained their 3,000-year old Aramaic mother tongue, known as the language of Jesus, and are indigenous to Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon. However, in none of these countries they are officially recognized as a distinct people where they consequently continue to struggle for recognition and survival. Therefore, your voice and support are urgently needed and appreciated.