Still no sign of life: The Society for Threatened Peoples would like to draw attention to the fate of two bishops who were abducted in Syria four years ago
Archbishop Schick and Minister Ramelow demand them to be released (Press Release)
The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) would like to draw attention to the fate of two bishops who were abducted in northern Syria on April 22, 2013. “After four years of waiting, there is still no sign of life from the Archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Mor Gregorius Yohanna Ibrahim, and the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church, Boulos Yazigi,” reported Kamal Sido, the STP’s Middle East consultant. “However, we have not yet given up hope that we might see these two Christian dignitaries alive again. Their fate clearly shows how threatening the situation in Syria is for the Christian minority.” In spring 2013, the two bishops had wanted to negotiate about a possible release of a kidnapped priest. On their way to a meeting, their car had been stopped to the west of Aleppo, not far from the Turkish border. Their driver, a deacon, had been shot, and the two bishops were abducted. So far, nobody has claimed responsibility.
The Chairman of the “Weltkirche”-Commission of the German Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Dr. Ludwig Schick (Bamberg), demanded that the kidnappers should release the two bishops and a priest who had been abducted in Syria. “Today, it has been four years since my two episcopal brothers, Mor Gregorius Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, were abducted in Syria. I know both of them personally, and I think of them every day. Once again, I would like to urge the kidnappers to set a sign of humanity – in the midst of the pointless bloodshed in Syria – by setting the two bishops free. I also pray for Father Paolo dall'Oglio SJ, founder of the monastery of Deir Mar Musa, who was abducted only a few months after the bishops, and from whom there has also been no sign of life. In their priestly and episcopal ministry, the three of them have always emphasized the love of God for all of mankind. Because they are deeply convinced of this belief, they also maintained a dialogue of friendship with their Muslim brothers. They should be treated as friends, not as enemies. They must no longer kept hostage, and the violence must stop!
All people in Syria have the right to live in peace and freedom. Thus, the politicians must finally enter a serious dialogue about the political future of Syria, rather than using weapons to destroy the lives of innumerable innocent people. The churches in Syria, the religious communities and charitable organizations are doing what they can to contribute to peace and reconciliation. They are going to huge efforts to help people in need, regardless of their religion, religious denomination, or ethnicity. They can also rely on support and solidarity of the Church in Germany.”
The Prime Minister of the Free State of Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow, also demanded the immediate release of the two bishops, who – following a suggestion by the STP – had been awarded the Weimar Human Rights Prize for their commitment as mediators and human rights ambassadors in the ongoing civil war in Syria. “In addition, all the conflict parties in Syria and their international powers are called upon to do everything possible to put an end to the terrible civil war in Syria, and to seek and find a political solution,” says a letter Bodo Ramelow sent to the STP.
“The fate of the bishops reflects the hopeless situation of the Christians in the Middle East,” stated Kamal Sido, the STP’s Middle East Consultant. “The Christian community in the region is threatened with extinction. One hundred years ago, the Christians made up about 20 percent of the total population. Today, they are less than three percent. This is just one more reason why Germany, Europe, America, but also Russia, must ensure that the existing conflicts will be solved peacefully. Without peaceful coexistence, without state-guaranteed and socially supported freedom of belief, the 2,000-year history of Christianity in the Middle East might soon be over once and for all.”
Since the German, Turkish, and international media have repeatedly reported that the Turkish government is able to influence the Islamist groups operating in Northern Syria, the STP also calls on the Turkish president to help clarify the fate of the two bishops.
Header Foto: GfbV-Archiv