CHRISTIANS across the Middle East marked Orthodox Easter last
weekend with prayers for the two Syrian Archbishops who were
kidnapped last month. The Syrian Oriental Orthodox Archbishop of
Aleppo, Mar Yohanna Ibrahim, and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of
Aleppo, the Most Revd Paul Yazigi, were seized in northern Syria on
their way home from the Turkish border (
News, 3 May).
The Metropolitan of Mardin in Turkey, Saliba Özmen, summed up
the attitude of Christians in the region when he said: "This year,
we celebrate Easter in a bitter-sweet mood; we rejoice for the
resurrection of Christ, but we are desperately sad about the lack
of news about our missing bishops." In most Orthodox churches in
the Middle East, some of the traditional acts of celebration were
replaced by quiet prayers for the safe return of the churchmen.
Christians have also been praying for peace in Syria, in a week
in which there were two potentially important developments: Israeli
jets hit targets inside Syria; and Russia and the United States
agreed to work together for a diplomatic solution.
Fears for the safety of the missing Archbishops are growing.
While churchmen have been abducted in the Middle East before, their
capture has usually been followed shortly afterwards by a demand
from the kidnappers. On this occasion, there has been no indication
about their captors or their whereabouts. Furthermore, Archbishop
Ibrahim is known to suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure.
It is not known whether he has access to the medical supplies that
In the diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the wider crisis
in Syria, Russia and the US agreed on the need for both the Syrian
government and the opposition to hold talks. But persuading both
sides to stop fighting and participate in a transitional government
presents a challenge. The government forces do not seem to be close
to surrendering, but neither are they able to deliver a crushing
blow to the rebels.