DETAILS OF KIDNAPPING OF GREEK AND SYRIAC ORTHODOX METROPOLITANS OF ALEPPO
DETAILS OF KIDNAPPING OF GREEK AND SYRIAC ORTHODOX METROPOLITANS OF ALEPPO
Pravoslavie ^ | April 26, 2013
Posted on Sunday, April 28, 2013 3:57:49 PM by NYer
FULL TITLE: THE WHOLE STORY OF THE KIDNAPPING OF THE GREEK AND SYRIAC
ORTHODOX METROPOLITANS OF ALEPPO
The two kidnapped metropolitans are Metropolitan Youhanna Ibrahim,
Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo, and Boulos Yazigi, Greek
Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Alexandretta, brother of Greek
Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi, who has been struck with a double tragedy.
Bishop Matta Khoury, secretary to Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Zakka I
Iwas, spoke to al-Joumhouria on behalf of the patriarch, who had just
come out of the hospital on the night of the incident. He confirmed,
also in his capacity as Bishop of Bab Touma in Damascus, that the
Patriarchate will not take any decision while awaiting any contact from
the kidnappers, in order to know their intentions and demands.
Khoury states that, "As Christian clergy, we do not fear Syrian Muslims.
We have no problem with any Syrian Muslims, whether they are Sunni,
Shii, or Alawi. Rather, our problem is with foreign Muslims who come
from abroad, Chechens, Taliban, Afghans who want, for example, to fight
Russia in our region. " He adds, "We have lived with Syrian Muslims for
a long time and we coexist with them in peace. We are brought together
by feasts and united by traditions." Khoury emphasizes that "Muslims
from all sects have built our patriarchal residence in Bab Touma,
decorated it, and carved icons of Saint George for us."
Khoury likewise affirms to al-Joumhouria that his Muslim children who
fled from Homs and whom he met in Lebanon confirm to him that "there is
no connection between Syrian Muslims and what is happening. They are
sorry about what has happened in Homs and are afraid of the foreign
groups that have come from abroad." He points out that, "the Syrian
Muslim does not constitute a source of fear for the Syrian Christian, as
Details of the Kidnapping
Bishop Matta Khoury recounts to al-Joumhouria the details of what
happened: After some effort, one of our priests in Aleppo was able to
contact us and to confirm the kidnapping of Metropolitans Youhanna
Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, who were on a humanitarian mission that they
had been preparing for a long time, obtaining the release of an Orthodox
and a Catholic priest. They were accompanied by a man named Fatuh, who
has been Metropolitan Ibrahim's driver for more than five years, and a
fourth, unidentified person.
On their way to the specified area to carry out the task which,
according to al-Joumhouria's information was ready and approaching its
conclusion-- liberating the priests, their car encountered a foreign group.
Khoury reveals that initial information indicates that the kidnappers
are Chechens and when they saw that two of those riding in the vehicle
were laypeople, they threw them out of the car and fled with
Metropolitans Yazigi and Ibrahim in an unknown direction.
Khoury confirms that the fourth, unidentified person is "a close
confidant of Metropolitan Yazigi" and he believes that he was playing a
fundamental role in the operation to release the priests who had been
taken hostage. He reveals that this person and the driver were both
thrown onto the road. After several hours, news arrived from Fatuh's
family who contacted the Metropolitan's office in Aleppo and informed
them that his son had found him murdered and had identified him from
distinguishing characteristics. The whereabouts of the fourth person are
still not known.
However, Khoury confirms that the fourth person is free and that "he is
the one who made it known that the kidnappers did not attack the two of
them, but rather threw them on the side of the road before each left in
a different direction. He confirms that the party that found and
murdered Fatuh are unconnected to the kidnappers."
Khoury recounts that, "the agreement to release the hostages required
Metropolitan Yazigi to come from Turkey while Metropolitan Ibrahim set
out from Aleppo, and that they would meet at an agreed-upon location in
order to carry out the operation to liberate the priets."
Khoury, who is responsible for the patriarchal residence in Bab Touma in
Damascus and is currently overseeing the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate,
explains that the fourth person confirmed this story and said that the
kidnappers' features indicate that they are foreigners. Chechens are
distinguished by their accent and coloring (beards, light skin, and blue
eyes, in addition to language) and so we deduce it from the information
that we have from Metropolitan Yazigi's friend.
Regarding Fatuh's family, Khoury states that they received his body and
identified him, emphasizing that "we acknowlege that the kidnappers are
not the driver's killers and that, according to the fourth person, they
are Chechens. However, we are not sure whether they are really Chechens
or whether they belong to another group."
He adds, "We are waiting the kidnappers to contact us, the patriarchate,
or the metropolitan's office in Aleppo so that we can know their
demands. Our sources confirm that efforts continue to release the two
metropolitans and for this reason we have waited to publish a statement
and we have not yet contacted the Greek Orthodox patriarchate.
We are calmly working individually, but this does not mean that we do
not want to cooperate. Just the opposite, we want each one to work
separately because we do not want to make a hasty decision, lest we put
the metropolitans' life in danger."
Khoury called for "Waiting for the legal deadline, 24 hours, before
holding any wider meeting or making any serious decision." He explains
that "We do not possess much information to act upon. Our position as a
patriarchate is unenviable position. We live in a state of sorrow,
grief, and pain and we are upset by this news, especially Patriarch
Zakka Iwas, who left the hospital today and his health is critical. The
news startled him and increased his pain."
Khoury emphasizes that, "We have always denounced and continue to
denounce attacks on all priests, whether they are of our community or of
another community, just as we denounce the death of Muslim clergy
because the mission of all clergy is peace and love. Their position with
the opposition or the opposite, but rather a purely humanitarian
position." Khoury described the metropolitan's office's position as
"bound" and we are unable to take any decision or issue any statement
because we do not want to subject the metropolitans to danger.
He explains that, "Kidnappers' demands are usually material or with the
goal of political pressure, to pressuring the state to arrange an
exchange. That is, the kidnappers may have a list of names they want to
make an exchange for."
He states that, "The kidnapping will not be easy for Christians in Syria
because Metropolitan Yazigi is close to the regime and to the opposition
and he has equally good relations with both sides. He has political
tact, and whenever he expresses his opinion, his demands are the same as
the demands of honorable Syrians: reform and an end to corruption."
Khoury denies that the two metropolitans have enmity for any specific
group, "and so we support the possibility that the kidnappers are
neither close to the regime nor to the opposition and are not Syrian."
He adds, "They could be Afghan or Chechen extremists, Jabhat al-Nusra,
Lybians, or Egyptians who have come from abroad.
We do not know who Metropolitan Yazigi was in contact with in order to
release the priests. However, it is most likely that he was not in
contact with foreigners, but rather the Free Syrian Army. News of their
coming may have been leaked or their kidnapping could have happened by
chance, since the area is not secure."
Khoury calls for patience, pointing out that the fourth person "was only
with difficult able to get to a telephone and communicate with the Greek
Orthodox metropolitan's office in Aleppo. If the situation is not
resolved tomorrow and the metropolitans return to their homes, we will
work on the level of the two patriarchates."
Khoury expresses his sympathy for Patriarch John X Yazigi, who is facing
a double problem, for his family and for his church. He states that his
heart is large and that he would deal in the same way, whether the
person being kidnapped is his brother or any other person from his
Khoury warns that "Over-analysis could cause danger for the
metropolitans. For this reason we must be patient because each group of
kidnappers has its own way of dealing and we do not want recklessness or
their being killed."
Khoury closes by saying, "Today is the Feast of Saint George. For the
Syriac Patriarchate and bishops, it is a feast for praying that all the
kidnapped priests may be freed, especially Metropolitans Yazigi and
Ibrahim." He calls on Lebanese in general and especially Christians to
"participate in prayer for the intention of their speedy release and the
release of the nation's captives."