Aleppo, an ecumenical prayer to remember the two bishops kidnapped in 2013

The Federation of Aramaeans in Switzerland recalls the kidnapping "which affected the hearts of all Christians". An event that "fomented the exodus" en masse of many faithful from Syria. Archbishop Georges: the hope, against all hope, that they are alive. The "spirituality" of Msgr. Boulos Yaziji and the "courage" of Msgr. Yohanna Ibrahim.

Aleppo (AsiaNews) - Seven years after the announcement of the kidnapping "which hit the hearts of all Christians", the kidnapping of the two bishops and the murder of their driver is still shrouded in mystery and " no official and proven news has been published. " This is what the Federation of Arameans (Syriacs) in Switzerland writes in a note on the kidnapping of Msgr. Yohanna Ibrahim and Msgr. Boulos Yaziji, which has not been reported since 22 April 2013. A kidnapping that "fomented the mass and inevitable exodus of many Christians who fled Aleppo and the surrounding area".

Melki Toprak, president of the Federation of Arameans in Switzerland, recalls the massive exodus from Syria, a nation that before the war "had 2.5 million Christians". In Iraq, the Christian leader continues, "such kidnappings occur frequently: we are in the 21st century and yet the presence of Christians in the Middle East still annoys the policy of many atrocious leaders".

There has been no news of the two prelates since 22 April 2013. Their fate remains shrouded in mystery like that of the Italian missionary Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio. These out of the ordinary kidnappings were not followed by ransom or negotiations for release.

Msgr Yohanna Ibrahim, bishop of the Syrian Orthodox diocese and Msgr. Boulos Yaziji, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox diocese, were kidnapped shortly before 6 in the afternoon in the locality of Kafr Dael, about 10 km from Aleppo.

According to some witnesses the two prelates were negotiating the release of two priests Fr. Michel Kayyal and Fr. Maher Mahfouz, kidnapped in February of the same year. On reaching a roadblock, the car with the two bishops was flanked by some armed men, possibly Chechen jihadists, who shot and killed the driver deacon. Evidence showed that the group was made up of foreigners who did not speak Arabic.

Aleppo Christians will hold an ecumenical prayer tomorrow "to remember" the two bishops, as the Apostolic Vicar of the Latins Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen. It will be a ceremony "which will take into account the measures taken to combat the new coronavirus pandemic", but which "we want to draw attention not only to them, but also to the two priests, to Fr. Dall'Oglio, to the thousands of Christians who disappeared and of whom nothing is known".

The ecumenical prayer will be officiated inside the cathedral of the Greek Orthodox, with the hope "that they are still alive" even if "we don't know, we don't have any certain news" about them. Our strength, continues the prelate, "is how St. Paul says hope against all hope" in this dark context. The fact remains "that no channel has been opened in these years and the only certainty is the killing of the driver" in the excited phases of the kidnapping.

For Msgr. Georges "their fate is one of the effects of the war, of a terrible conflict" and it is the task of the whole Christian community "to keep their memory alive".

“When they kidnapped them - concludes the prelate - I was still a parish priest, but there were many ties between us. We met every last Saturday of the month and each time I was struck by the profound spirituality of the Greek Orthodox bishop, while the courage with which he faced problems was unique to the Syro-Orthodox. "