Update on the Kidnapped Bishops Issue
- Update on the Kidnapped Bishops Issue
As we approach the fifth week of captivity of Archbihop Yohanna Ibrahim and Metropolitan Boulos Yaziji, we wanted to apprise you of several activities undertaken this week to help secure their release. Much more can and needs to be done and your prayers are most important to secure their release, but below is a quick update.
At the urging of the Orthodox community in the United States including our own Syriac Orthodox Church, six Members of the United States House of Representatives on Tuesday circulated a petition seeking their colleagues' signature to a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to prioritize the release of the two kidnapped bishops in their discussions and international deliberations about Syria. The text of the letter was initiated by Congressman Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, and Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Republican of Florida. We are happy to advise you that, in only four days and thanks to your phone calls to your congressional representatives, we secured 72 signatures. Numerous Congressman from Maryland and northern Virginia including Representatives Jim Moran, Frank Wolf, Gerry Connolly, Dutch Ruppersberger and Chris Van Hollen signed the letter. Seventy-two Members is quite a fantastic accomplishment, especially in only 4 days and with Congress exceptionally busy with many legislative activities during this time of year.
The letter was delivered Monday morning to the State Department in advance of Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Robert Ford's meeting with the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the main opposition umbrella group, this week in Amman, Jordan. We expect that they will likely raise the issue again with, and request the assistance of, both the SNC and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) with whom the U.S. government has periodic contacts. This intercession with the State Department was preceded by several meetings and phone calls His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim had with the Department as well as a joint conference call with Metropolitan Philip Saliba and Ambassador Ford during which both prelates urged Ambassador Ford to work feverishly to secure the release of the two archbishops.
His Eminence traveled to Washington twice this week to seek support for the release of the archbishops. On Tuesday he met with Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. Namik Tan where His Eminence briefed Ambassador Tan about the bishops and urged the Turkish government's assistance in securing their release. He also urged Ambassador Tan to ensure that the issue of the kidnapped bishops is raised during the week's bilateral meetings between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and President Barack Obama. Ambassador Tan assured His Eminence that the issue will be raised, and then invited His Eminence to a private reception on Friday at the conclusion of Prime Minister Erdogan's official visit to Washington. His Eminence drove to Washington again on Friday to attend the reception in honor of Prime Minister Erdogan. At the reception at the ambassador's official residence, His Eminence had a brief meeting with PM Erdogan to urge him to use his good offices to determine the status of the archbishops, the identity of their kidnappers, and to seek the Turkish government's efforts to ensure their safe and prompt release. His Eminence also delivered a private letter to the Prime Minister about what we believe to be relevant facts surrounding the kidnapping and potential whereabouts of the archbishops. The Prime Minister, through a translator, said that only criminals and terrorists would even think to kidnap holy men and agreed to work toward their release. He then clasped the hand of His Eminence for a few minutes and added, "Inshallah" they will be released soon.
Please be sure to keep Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi in your thoughts and prayers.
God bless you,
(Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church in N America)
This is an urgent request for your immediate action to make two phone calls on Friday, May 17 noon.
Bottom Line Up Front: Aboon Hasio Aphrem has been working to bring the ordeal of Hasio Yohanna and Archbishop Yazigi to the attention of Secretary of State John Kerry. Among his efforts, he has been able to enlist several sponsors in Congress (House only) to submit a letter to urge Sec Kerry to push the issue of the two abducted bishops in Aleppo to the top of U.S. priorities in Syria. The more congressional sponsors the letter has, the more political weight it will carry with the State Department. So, Aboon Hasio and his Washington team are asking you to do two things:
1. Call your local Congressman/woman Friday before 12:00 pm. and urge them to sign on to the "Sherman-Bilirakis" letter (read below) regarding the release of the 2 kidnapped archbishops in Syria.
2. Forward this email to your friends and family and ask them to call their Congressmen.
When calling your Congressman, you can dial the Capitol switchboard at (202) 225-3121 and ask to be transferred to your Congressman's office. You can also look them up online at www.house.gov. Should you not know who your congressman is, there is a feature on the House website where you put in your zip code and it will tell you who represents you in Congress.
When the receptionist in your Congressman's office answers, ask to speak with the Legislative Assistant responsible for Foreign Affairs, and mention that you are calling to urge your Congressman to sign on to the Sherman-Bilirakis letter regarding the 2 kidnapped bishops in Syria.
If your Congressman has already signed the letter, thank them and urge them to continue to work for the release of the 2 archbishops in Syria.
Please urge everyone to call Friday AM. Time is of the essence.
Thanking you in advance,
Urge State Department to Prioritize Release of Kidnapped Syrian Archbishops
Deadline: Noon on Friday, May 17, 2013
Current Signers: Sherman, Bilirakis, Maloney, Sarbanes, Franks, Pompeo, Engel, Van Hollen, Roskam, King, Capuano, Carolyn McCarthy, Holt, McGovern, Wolf, Larsen, Griffin, Jones, Amash, Deutch, Williams,Huizenga, Tim Murphy, Salmon, Keating, Rothfus, Garrett, Doyle, Polis
We ask you to sign the bipartisan letter below asking the State Department to make the immediate release of Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim, the Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo, a priority in our efforts in Syria.
Metropolitan Yazigi and Metropolitan Ibrahim, who were traveling near Syrias border with Turkey, were kidnapped by unknown assailants as they were conducting humanitarian work in the area on April 22, 2013. Their driver, FathaAllah Kabboud, a deacon in the Syriac Orthodox Church, was shot dead. Pope Francis has called for the release of these Archbishops.
As Members of Congress committed to religious pluralism in the Middle East and around the world, we believe the United States must do everything it can to ensure that Christians and other religious minorities have a safe future in Syria.
To sign this letter, or if you have any questions, please contact Siamak Kordestani in Rep. Shermans office (siamak.kordestani@... or 55911) or Miriam Keim in Rep. Bilirakiss office (miriam.keim@... or 55755). The deadline to sign this letter is Friday, May 17, 2013.
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Dear Secretary Kerry,
We write to express our grave concern over the kidnapping of Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim, the Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo. The two Archbishops were abducted by unknown assailants while carrying out humanitarian work in the northern province of Aleppo on April 22, 2013. We mourn the murder of FathaAllah Kabboud, a deacon in the Syriac Orthodox Church, who was serving as the Archbishops driver at the time of their abduction.
We urge the State Department to make Metropolitan Yazigi and Metropolitan Ibrahims immediate release and safe return to Aleppo a priority in our efforts in the region.
Metropolitan Yazigi and Metropolitan Ibrahim had previously made public pronouncements that religious tolerance and diversity was under threat from the two-year conflict in their country.
The kidnapping of Metropolitan Yazigi and Metropolitan Ibrahim reflects the troubling rise in abductions in Syria, the expanding chaos and brutality of the civil war that has killed more than 70,000 Syrians, and an increasingly dangerous environment for religious minorities.
As Members of Congress committed to religious freedom in the Middle East and around the world, we believe the United States must do everything it can to ensure that all the diverse religions and ethnicities of Syria have a safe future.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
(Members of Congress)
CC: U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford