Eastern Churches: Do not forget the two Syrian bishops kidnapped, perhaps killed by jihadists, in 2013
by Fady Noun

There has been no news of Youhanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi in eight years. All traces of the two archbishops were lost between Aleppo and the Turkish border. According to unconfirmed sources, they were killed by a radical Islamic group. A memory "rooted in hearts" and that time "cannot erase". The roots of Christians go back to the Middle East.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - About ten days ahead of the Easter celebrations of the Orthodox communities (May 2), the Greek Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox patriarchs of Antioch recalled Paul Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim, the two bishops of Aleppo who disappeared in Syria in 2013 in circumstances whose contours have never really been clarified.

To mark Palm Sunday, the two authorities asked the faithful of their Churches released a message drawn up for this occasion and to remember the two prelates in their prayers on the occasion of the Easter feast.

Here are some passages from this joint press release:

“On a day like today, April 22, 2013, our brother archbishops of Aleppo Youhanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi were kidnapped. Since that day, their cause has symbolized, without summarizing it, all the tragedy experienced by human beings in the East [...] ".

“Today we remember these two missing brothers of ours. Their abduction represents one of the mysteries of this age; it also touches in a certain way the very essence of the human being, in a world in which it seems that its value has now become, for some, insignificant. They were abducted on their return from a humanitarian mission. They were and remain two symbols of the Christian presence in the East. Many pretend to boast of their importance, which in reality has value only in words”.

“Their memory is rooted so deeply in our hearts that not even the years that pass can erase it. We appeal to local and international public opinion, recalling that we have knocked on all the doors of diplomacy, security services, political and social representation that we have encountered on our path. And from which no significant and certain results have emerged”.

“We are called today, as Christians, to be united by going beyond all particular affiliations; we must overcome all the accidents of history and aspire, with all our strength, to Christian unity. This double kidnapping is the greatest proof that what unites us in Christ is much greater than the sediments of history that separate us. This double kidnapping is proof that, as Christians, we share a common destiny in the East. A common destiny that we also share with anyone who seeks the face of God and his mercy and defines God as the Lord of Life and the Lord of the resurrection, not putting themselves in his place”.

“In the face of this blackout, in the face of kidnappers who refuse to identify themselves [...], and in the face of the fruitless efforts of the intelligence services, we reaffirm one thing: as Christians of Machrek, we are rooted in this East and we will remain rooted in it, as long as we have blood in our veins. We are here trusting only in God and in our hope in the Lord of the resurrection. Here we entrust ourselves to the Lord of the resurrection, who has been with us for two thousand years. And we are confident and believe that he always will be”.

According to some sources, never officially confirmed, the two prelates were killed by a jihadist group in December 2016. What is certain is that went missing on April 22, 2013, while they were in the area between Aleppo and the Turkish border, possibly victims of the Salafist group Nour al-Din al-Zenki, financed by Saudi Arabia and the United States. The two prelates, one of whom was the brother of the Greek Orthodox patriarch Jean X of Antioch, were on a mission in an attempt to negotiate the release of two priests Fr. Michel Kayyal and Fr. Maher Mahfouz, kidnapped in February of the same year. However, the official investigation was never officially closed as it was not possible to find the remains of the two priests.