Congressmen seek release of kidnapped Syria archbishops

72 Members of Congress, led by Representatives Brad Sherman (D-CA), Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Trent Franks (R-AZ), and Mike Pompeo (R-KS), urged the State Department to prioritize the release of two kidnapped Archbishops in a letter to Secretary Kerry, the Armenian Reporter informs.

Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim, the Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo, were abducted by unknown assailants while carrying out humanitarian work in the northern province of Aleppo on April 22, 2013. Their driver, Fatha’Allah Kabboud, a deacon in the Syriac Orthodox Church, was shot dead. Pope Francis has called for the release of these Archbishops.

“I am pleased that 72 bipartisan Representatives in the House joined together in urging the Secretary of State to make this issue a priority,” said Rep. Sherman, a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and a member of the International Religious Freedom Caucus. “We must do everything we can to ensure that Christians and other religious minorities have a safe future in Syria. I am deeply alarmed about the safety of the Archbishops and call for their immediate and safe release.”

“It has been almost a month since Metropolitan Ibrahim and Metropolitan Yazigi were kidnapped,” said Rep. Bilirakis. “I am deeply concerned about their safety and demand their immediate return. These men of God faithfully served the Orthodox community during the ongoing conflict in Syria and their kidnapping highlights the troubling rise in abductions.

“I am deeply concerned for the safety of Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim, the Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo, who were kidnapped as they carried out humanitarian work near the Turkish border of Syria,” said Rep. Maloney. “Not only were these religious leaders abducted, but their driver, an innocent victim, was murdered by these armed individuals. It is a travesty that weeks have gone by since the Archbishops were initially captured, and we have still heard nothing on their release. These Archbishops have nothing to do with the Syrian civil war, and I call on their immediate and safe release.”

“The kidnapping of Metropolitan Ibrahim and Metropolitan Yazigi is part of an alarming trend of violence directed at religious minorities, especially Christians,” said Rep. Pompeo. “I am glad to be joined by 71 Members of the House of Representatives to demand the release of the Archbishops and to reaffirm our commitment to religious freedom around the world.”

“We urge the State Department to make Metropolitan Yazigi and Metropolitan Ibrahim’s immediate release and safe return to Aleppo a priority in our efforts in the region,” said the Members in the letter. “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.”

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