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marți, 23 aprilie 2013

Syria crisis: bishops kidnapped by rebels - live updates

Syrian Bishop Boulos Yaziji (seated left) head of the Greek Orthodox church in Aleppo, during the enthronement in Damascus of his brother Yuhanna X Yazigi (seated right) as the Patriarch of Antioch. An armed group in Aleppo province kidnapped two bishops including Bishop Boulos and Bishop Yuhanna Ibrahim, head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo, according to state media. Photograph: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images
Two Syrian Orthodox bishops have been kidnapped on the outskirts of Aleppo. While both clergymen are believed to be alive, their driver was killed during the attack.

Syriac Orthodox bishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo Paul, who also happens to be the brother of Patriarch John of Antioch and All The East were abducted en route to Aleppo from a town on the Turkish border where they were carrying out “humanitarian work.”

As they neared the city, they were met with an armed group in the village of Kfar who forced them out of the car. The driver, who was also a deacon was killed during the attack.

The bishops are believed to be alive and efforts are ongoing to secure their release, NNA reports.

The Greek Orthodox diocese of Aleppo declined to comment on the incident. The Russian orthodox church has condemned the act.

Earlier, Metropolitan Hilarion, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations, noted that his close contact with the bishops of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, made him believe that “in those places where the authorities are replaced by the rebel groups, Christianity is being exterminated  to the last man: Christians are expelled, or physically destroyed,” quotes Itar-Tass.

He recalled that “Syria has taken more than two million Iraqi refugees, thousands of whom are Christians.”  But now the Metroplitain says “thousands of militant extremists under the guise of opposition forces unleashed a civil war in this country. Extremist groups armed and trained by means of foreign powers are deliberately killing Christians, ” Metropolitan Hilarion said.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the act but member of the National Coalition, Abdulahad Steifo, told Reuters that the clergy were abducted on the road to Aleppo from the rebel-held Bab al Hawa crossing with Turkey and that “all probabilities are open” as to who could have kidnapped the bishops.

In North America, where Patriarchate of Antioch has about 250 parishes and 400 priests,  Bishop Basil, Secretary of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America has asked for prayers from the followers.

In May 2011, International Christian Concern group suggested that the Christian minority in Syria are more afraid of the opposition forces than of the government, because under the Assad regime there has been tolerance towards religious minorities.

Abductions have become common in Syria as the country is locked in a two-year internal conflict. Ten days ago the home of bishop Paul was attacked by rocket fire.

Syria's 10 percent Christian population is particularly vulnerable to such attacks especially from the opposition groups as they have remained largely neutral or supportive of the government.


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