Syria (MNN/SAT7) — Contrary to Tuesday’s reports, the fate of two Syrian bishops
reportedly kidnapped remains unknown.
Taken in the north of Syria, another Church official contradicted earlier reports that the pair had been released. As of this writing on 24 April, spokesman for SAT-7*, Greg Garrett, says, "I received an e-mail directly from the Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo stating that they had not been released and to wait, basically, for them to give a further report, and that they would certainly contact us once the release had been confirmed."
SAT-7's Press Release on 23 April was based on independent reports from Reuters, AP, BBC, and Al Jazeera. Garrett reiterates, "The initial reports that we had, which I believed to be from reliable sources, stated that they were on a humanitarian mission, actually going to negotiate the release of some other believers that had been abducted recently."
With each passing hour, concerns are growing over the bishops' welfare. He goes on to explain that "up until this point, there haven't been such high-profile Christian leaders that have been abducted. There have been priests and some other clergy, but never archbishops."
In communicating with the diocese, Garrett says they were told that while they wait, "[Church leaders] are banding together with numerous other ministries praying for the immediate release. Even the Pope issued a statement today calling for the immediate release of them."
The background: on the evening of Monday, 22 April, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim–The Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo (Syria)–was traveling with Metropolitan Paul Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop in the same city. They were returning to Aleppo from a village near to the Turkish border when armed gunmen stopped the car in the village of Kfar Dael, killed the driver, and kidnapped the two bishops.
At the beginning of April, Mar Gregorios had given an interview with the BBC's Arabic Service and called for the Syrian government to allow free access to the media. He said that by allowing journalists to move about freely, it would show the "true picture of the tragedy suffered by Syrians."
At the end of March, Mar Gregorios attended SAT-7's annual Network Conference in Cyprus and spoke of the ongoing conflict in his beloved Syria during a panel discussion.
Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (also a SAT-7 International Council Member) said earlier, "We know very well that the role these bishops are playing in Aleppo is to encourage the Syrian Christians and strengthen them to remain in their land."
The production team at SAT-7 has already been tailoring programming. Garrett says on Tuesday night, "We had a special live program that lasted for two hours that's called ‘Kermalak,‘ which means ‘Just For You, Syria.' We took calls from believers all over the Middle East, addressing questions, concerns. Basically, [we were] spending time praying as well for their safe release." For now, that's all people can do: keep praying.
There have been more than 75,000 deaths since the conflict started in Syria, and more than one million refugees are now living in camps or temporary housing in nearby Turkey, Jordan, or Syria. In addition, there are more than 4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), and it is estimated that one-in-three homes and places of work have been destroyed or damaged in the fighting.
*SAT-7 is a Christian Satellite television service to the Middle East and North Africa. Based in Cyprus, and operated by a board of denominational, business, and non-profit organization leaders, SAT-7 operates studios in Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Cyprus and the U.K.
Their five channels reach a combined audience of more than 15 million people:
SAT-7 ARABIC, SAT-7 KIDS and SAT-7 PLUS in the Arabic language; SAT-7 PARS in the Farsi language; and SAT-7 TÜRK in the Turkish language.