A Syrian bishop is widely acclaimed after he had been successful in generating the ransom amount to procure release of the Christians who had been held captive by the terror group ISIS. Hundreds of Assyrian Christians were saved as a result of his endeavor.
Followed by his heroic striving Bishop is now being held in high esteem. The Assyrian Christians were abducted from Khabur River valley in northern Syria, a region which is home to large number of Christians. Details revealed that last year on February 23, Islamic State fighters had launched an attack on 35 Christian towns and villages. The militants had abducted at least 226 Christian men, women and children.
Islamic State militants had purportedly forced Christians of the valley to destroy any signs and symbols of the Christian faith however, the local Christians had plainly refused to convert to Islam. However, after taking these Christians captive, Islamic militants later demanded high amounts of money as ransoms in order to free the captives.
Abdo Marza and 16 other Assyrian Christians who had been kidnapped from the village of Tal Goran were offered freedom if they would carry the terror group’s message to the bishop in the town of Hasakah, and return with the bishop’s answer.
Abdo Marza decided to volunteer to carry ISIS’s message to the Bishop and bring his message back to the militant group. He had agreed to carry ISIS’s message on a condition that the rest of the Christians taken captive from his village would be freed. Consequently, the militants held back his six-year-old daughter and elderly aunt accompanied by Christian hostages from other towns.
When Abdo Marza reached Bishop Mar Afram Athneil, he had to wait for three days as Bishop Athneil took his time making consultation with church leaders based across the globe and later sent a message to the militant group. When Marza returned with the message and his daughter was set free by the Islamic State.
Bishop Athneil later initiated negotiations with the terror group in order to procure safety of more than 200 Christians still held by ISIS, nonetheless he was met with a demand of $50,000 (£39,500) per person – more than $11m for the entire group. Consequently, people from across the world set up fundraising projects and were able to send the donations to Syria in order to ensure freedom for the hostages.
Nicholas al-Jeloo, based in Melbourne in Australia, who had his cousins among the hostages said, “For the Assyrians, the Khabur was one of their last cultural strongholds in a sea of hostility in the Middle East. If they didn’t help these people, it was the end.”
California based, Sargon Saadi a Syrian filmmaker said: “Everybody went crazy and money started flying in from all over. Churches, and donations, Assyrians, non-Assyrians, just donating to the churches and funneling it to the bishop.”
“We can’t fight them, Assyrians don’t have an army to go rescue them. They don’t have SWAT teams, they don’t have SEAL 6. The only option they have is to pay the ransom. And everybody was so fearful that the rest of the hostages were also going to be killed,” he said.
Aneki Nissan, who had played a pivotal role in fund raising in Canada, said: “You look at it from the moral side and I get it – if we give them money we’re just feeding into it, and they’re going to kill using that money. We’re such a small minority that we have to help each other.”
As a result of the fundraising from across the globe, Bishop Athneil was able to pay the ransom and thus hundreds of Assyrian Christians were set free by Islamic State after receiving the ransom.