Bishop Ibrahim, head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo, was kidnapped on Monday, along with his counterpart from the Greek Orthodox Church, bishop Boulos Yaziji, after travelling to the Turkish border in an attempt to secure the release of two priests kidnapped in February – Michel Kayyal (Armenian Catholic) and Maher Mahfous (Greek Orthodox).
Jamil Diarbakerli, who represents the Assyrian Democratic Organization (which petitions for the rights of the Assyrian minority), reported the story. The driver of the vehicle, Fathallah Kaboud, was later killed, although ecclesiastical sources in Syria informed Diarbakerli that the shooting?took place in another part of the city after Kaboud had driven to inform the bishop’s office of the kidnapping.
Kaboud, who had been Bishop Ibrahim’s personal chauffeur for several years, leaves behind a wife and two children. A fourth passenger escaped, but his identity remains unknown. Reports on Tuesday that claimed the bishops had been released were later refuted by church officials.
This latest kidnapping comes a week after Bishop Ibrahim informed the BBC that Christians in Syria had not been targeted during the rebel uprising. Yet on April 17, Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham told the press that more than 1,000 Syrian Christians have been killed and 20 churches destroyed.
Though the bishop’s nephew acknowledged that “there are parts of Syria where there is persecution of Christians,” he believes his uncle’s desire is for Syrian Christians to remain in the country wherever possible. “Things can change dramatically after the kidnapping of two important Christian leaders, but even though there is a war in Aleppo, the two bishops stayed and want their people to do the same-not to leave the country, not to empty Syria of Christians,” he said.
Diarbakerli said the latest kidnapping has increased tension between Muslims and Christians in Syria, but he remains hopeful a resolution will dissolve tensions.
“I dont want the perpetrators to win by using the archbishop as a weapon for religious and sectarian violence,” he said. “I hope that all of Syria will cooperate to immediately find and release the bishops, because these kind of acts shall not serve any part of the conflict.”
Father, we plead on behalf of these bishops in Syria that You would protect them and bring about their release. We grieve over the loss of Fathallah Kaboud, their faithful driver. We pray for all their families, that You would sustain them and give them peace. And we pray for Your church in Syria that those who can will remain in Syria to be a beacon of hope in the midst of the dark hopelessness in this war-torn nation. We pray for the power of Your Holy Spirit to fill them and empower them to trust their lives to You as they reach out to the lost and hurting souls around them. In the name of Jesus who loves and defends His church, Amen.