Kidnappings of bishops raise fears among Syrian Christians
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Bishop Yaziji has not been able to conduct services in Syria due to violence and had spent last months in Hatay. AFP photoThe kidnapping of two Syrian bishops has raised fears among Christians as they become increasingly vulnerable to attack and abductions in the war-ravaged Arab republic.
Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yaziji and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim were kidnapped on April 22 by armed men en route from the Turkish border. Engin Türker, head of the Syriac Associations Federation, voiced his concern. “Until now no Christian bishops were kidnapped and this is a big mistake. We hope they will be released soon,” he said. “If the bishops were killed, it would trigger a mass exodus.”
Because Yaziji has not been able to conduct services in his country due to the fighting, he had spent the last number of months in the southern Turkish province of Hatay, conducting services there.
‘Yaziji would become ‘metropolitan bishop’
Yaziji planned to turn to Aleppo to attend ceremonies on May 4-5 for Orthodox Easter but was subsequently set to return to Turkey. Laki Vingas, head of the Association for the Support of Greek Community Foundations (RUMVADER), spoke with Yaziji hours before the kidnapping.
“Yaziji could not carry out his services due to violence and he often came to Hatay. If he hadn’t been kidnapped, he would have become the metropolitan bishop of Hatay,” Vingas said.
Fadi Hurigil, head of the Antakya Orthodox Church Foundation, said Yaziji seemed nervous when he was leaving the church.
“He couldn’t go to Aleppo because of the violence. The Greek Orthodox patriarch in Damascus has also gone to Beirut. Fifteen days ago, a metropolitan center was bombed in Aleppo and a mortar landed on a church,” he said.
Hurigil also said they were seeking support from Turkey in securing the release of the bishops, underlining that the incident would increase worries among Christians in Syria.