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World Council of Churches urges for release of abducted Syrian priests

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The World Council of Churches (WCC) has demanded release of two abducted priests abducted in Syria about five years ago. WCC had urged for their release earlier in June this year; repeating its call as 2,000 days pass since their kidnapping.

ISIS in Syria

In April 2013, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi were abducted at gunpoint outside Aleppo. Both priests are missing since then, as none of the terrorist groups claimed responsibility of the kidnapping neither have demanded ransom for their release.

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In this regard, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches Reverend Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit stated: “Sadly, the statement issued by the WCC Central Committee at its bi-annual meeting in June this year calling for a safe return of our Christian brothers to their churches, their communities and their families, needs to be repeated. We continue to pray for them, as a sign of hope for all the Christians of Syria and the region.” He asserted: “As Christian witnesses, we will continue to stand by victims of war and injustice, and cry out loud against human rights violations.”

The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom in its annual report stated that Christians make up 10% of total population of Syria. “In 2017, religious freedom conditions, as well as human rights, remained dire in Syria. For most of the year, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continued to carry out mass executions, attack civilian populations, and kidnap religious minorities. By year’s end, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS largely had defeated the group in Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor.”

“Christians in Damascus’s oldest Christian neighborhoods, such as Bab Tuma and Bab Sharqi, also reported pressure to sell their property to private Iranian businessmen helping to execute this depopulation scheme. According to human rights organizations, Sunni Muslims and Christians who lived in Qusayr, a village in the Homs countryside, were denied entry to return to their homes.”

USCIRF reported that “… many religious minority prisoners remain missing. Twenty-five Christian prisoners held by ISIS have yet to be released, and their whereabouts remain unclear. Additionally, the liberation of ISIS-held territory in 2017 highlights the continued disappearance of some of Syria’s most prominent Christian leaders, including Italian Jesuit priest Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo Paul Yazigi, Armenian Catholic priest Father Michel Kayyal, and Greek Orthodox priest Father Maher Mahfouz, among others.”