Wednesday, April 24, 2013

As-Saifr on Events Surrounding the Kidnapping

Arabic original here.

Balamand is a Hive of Phone Calls and Prayer

An Account of the Kidnapping of Yazigi and Ibrahim

by Ghassan Rifi

The bells of Balamand did not ring with thanksgiving or joy yesterday, despite all the reports that circulated in the media and on social networks about the release of Bishops Paul Yazigi (Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Alexandretta) and Youhanna Ibrahim (Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo) who were kidnapped the day before yesterday by an armed group in Aleppo. Orthodox patriarchal circles were not content with the announcement that official notice of the alleged release: Patriarch John X Yazigi tried to call his kidnapped brother, but the response was always that the number dialed was out of service, leaving serious fears in Balamand and in all Orthodox Churches in Lebanon and abroad concerning the fate of the two bishops. Patriarch Yazigi, who undertook intensive communications with the leaders of major countries and of concerned Arab states and their government leaders and with the leaders of religious communities in them in order to press for the release of the kidnapped men, sequestered himself from media and from most visitors and asked everyone not to make any political or other statements and to rely solely on prayer for the apostles of love Boulos and Youhanna.

Trusted church sources related to as-Safir how the kidnapping happened, noting the likely possibility that the bishops were ambushed, especially given that they had been following for months the issue of two priests who had been kidnapped by an armed group.

These sources say that the bishops visited Turkey in order to pursue the issue of the two priests, but they did not arrive at a positive result. As they were returning-- each in his own car with his driver-- they crossed the Turkish-Syrian border in the area of Bab el-Hawa and upon arriving in the village of Mansoura, they were met by an armed group that the sources say included Chechens as well as Syrians, who kidnapped the two and led them off in an unknown direction. After killing the driver and deacon of Metropolitan Ibrahim, who is from the Fatuh family, they asked Metropolitan Yazigi's driver to call the Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan's office in Aleppo to retrieve his body from the side of the road. The Orthodox and Syriac patriarchates were careful not to point fingers of accusation in any direction, especially since none has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and no conditions for the bishops' release has been set, despite information circulated by some that calls about this had been made demanding that the Syrian regime release 500 detainees in exchange for the two bishops' release. Since then it has become apparent that this information was inaccurate.

Likewise, the two patriarchates have been careful to act with total calm and to not announce any positions that might reflect negatively on the efforts being made at the highest levels to achieve their release. They issued a joint communique expressing their regret at the kidnapping and at any similar activity that threatens citizens, without regard to their affiliation. They emphasized that Christians are an essential part of their lands. They suffer the pain every person suffers, work as messengers of peace to lift the injustice off every oppressed.

The two patriarchates are deeply sorrowed by what their countries are going through, namely violence that is spreading and killing the sons of the one country and exposing their lives to various dangers of which kidnapping, that represents one of its the most horrible expressions due to its absurdity and its jeopardizing of the lives of the peaceful and unarmed individuals. They urged the kidnappers to have respect for the lives of those kidnapped and called on everyone to refrain from any actions that might sow sectarian division among the people of the one nation.

They called on the whole world "to try putting an end to the Syrian crisis so that Syria becomes again a garden of love, security and coexistence. Settling accounts should not happen at the expense of the human beings who live here." They also called on all Christian Churches to "to stand fast in the face of what is going on and witness to their faith in the power of love in this world. It is necessary to take steps that reflect their refusal to all kinds of violence hitting the human beings living in the East."

 They called on Muslim partners in citizenship " to stand hand in hand and work on refusing the misuse of man and deal with him as a product, a shield in the battles or a means for monetary or political bribery."

They closed by addressing the kidnappers and telling them "that those whom they kidnapped are messengers of peace in this world. Their religious, social and national work witnesses for them. We call them to deal with this painful accident away from any tension that serves only the enemies of this country."

The "Change and Reform Bloc"

Yesterday afternoon patriarchal circles were confused by the news that the "Change and Reform Bloc" intended to meet under the leadership of Gen. Michel Aoun at Balamand. As-Safir has learned that quick telephone calls were made from the patriarchal residence to members of the bloc in order to have the meeting changed to simply a visit of solidarity without any political statements, in order to prevent the politicization of the issue or coloring current efforts to release the bishops.

In the end, Aoun arrived accompanied by the minister Jibran Basile and members of the bloc and they held a meeting with Patriarch Yazigi. All left without making any statement, while a communique issued by the bloc in the evening stated that the visit was in solidarity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These (reliable) updates and information are very much appreciated.