Assyrian Christians Released in Syria

November 12, 2015 by Janelle P in Middle East

The self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) has released 37 more Assyrian Christians who were kidnapped nine months ago in Syria, Assyrian sources said. The group, including men and women in their sixties and seventies, were among the 253 Christians captured in IS attacks on Assyrian villages in northeastern Syria’s Hassaka province.

Three thousand indigenous Assyrian Christians were driven from their homes when jihadists overran 35 villages on the Khabur River in Hassaka on February 23 of this year.

Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reported that the newly released hostages arrived safely at the local town of Tel Tamar on Saturday, November 9. A bus transported the freed Christians to a local church in Tel Tamar, the largest Assyrian town in the Khabur River region.

Negotiations to release the captives were reportedly conducted between the Assyrian Church of the East and the IS, which had previously demanded $100,000 for each hostage. Further negotiations are understood to be underway, sources said.

A month earlier, on October 7, IS released a video of militants killing three of the 253 Assyrian hostages from Hassaka; they threatened to kill more if demands were not met.

IS holds an estimated 168 more Hassaka Christians captive, as well as 185 Assyrians abducted from the town of Qaryatain in Homs province in the first week of August. On October 10, a Syriac Catholic priest, Fr. Jacques Mourad, managed to escape from his captors nearly five months after masked IS gunmen kidnapped him in Homs province.

Jihadists attacked Elian Monastery in August, capturing at least 60 Christians who had fled to the monastery for refuge. Two weeks later, IS bulldozed the 5th century pilgrimage site. The prior of the monastery had been abducted earlier, on May 21, when IS militants seized the nearby city of Palmyra.

The Islamic State has particularly targeted religious minorities with their countless acts of violence, including murder and sexual enslavement. Several international observers, including the UN Security Council, have condemned “gross, systematic and widespread abuse” of human rights by the Islamic State and other like-minded groups in Syria.

Last month, the European Syriac Union, an alliance of different Assyrian/Syriac political and cultural organizations in Europe, focused on the “irrevocable damage” caused to native people, including ethnic and religious minorities in both Iraq and Syria, stating that, “From the beginning of the fall of Mosul until today, Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people and Ezidis [Yazidis] have been subject to killings, executions, ransom and mass-displacement.”

Source: World Watch Monitor

Father, daily we hear about the continuing assaults on Your church by the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Indeed, we know that their goal is to destroy the power of Christ in the world. Thank You for the confidence that even in the midst of world chaos, You are there. Christ is on His throne. His power remains strong, and the victory has already been won. We call on You to dispel the power of IS. Your people in Syria cry out to You for mercy, and we stand with them in praying that You will protect them and sustain them with food and shelter. Cast out their fear with Your overwhelming peace. Grant them hope in the midst of darkness. Let the light of Christ’s presence shine through them that the gospel might go forward in power and authority. In the Name of Jesus, “the Alpha and the Omega … who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty,” Amen.

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