Rahi Urges World Action to Release Kidnapped Bishops and Nuns

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi urged the international community on Sunday to work for the release of two bishops kidnapped in Syria and a group of nuns recently taken hostage in the war-ravaged country.

During his sermon in Bkirki, al-Rahi expressed regret that the Greek Orthodox nuns had been “assaulted.”

“I urge the U.N. envoys here to interfere to bring back the nuns to their convent or any other convent,” he said.

The nuns, who were seized by rebels from a convent near Damascus, denied in a video broadcast Friday that they had been kidnapped and said they were being held in a safe place.

It was the first appearance by them, whose alleged Monday abduction has increased concerns about the treatment of Christians by hard-liners in the rebel ranks, particularly as the fighting has engulfed more Christian villages in recent months.

In the video aired by the Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite channel Friday, the nuns appeared healthy. They took turns speaking, saying they were escorted out of Maaloula to keep them safe from the shelling.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and religious officials had said the nuns and three civilians were taken by rebels from the Mar Takla convent in Maaloula after rebels overran the village, and were being kept in the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud.

Al-Rahi also called for the release of two bishops, Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, who were kidnapped by armed men in Aleppo at the end of April.

Al-Rahi lamented that politicians “without any mercy were making the people poorer.”

He also accused them of “playing with the fate of our youth and future generations by paralyzing constitutional institutions, preventing the formation of a new cabinet that is capable of confronting big and scary challenges and obstructing the (country's) economic life.”

Al-Rahi slammed their cheep political objectives, which he said led to more corruption, squandering of public funds, arms proliferation and incitement to violence.

The patriarch hailed the Lebanese army for making sacrifices to guarantee security in the northern city of Tripoli and end the fighting between the rival neighborhoods.

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