Syria Orthodox Easter Marred by Bishops in Captivity


Syria's Greek Orthodox faithful bore a heavy cross on Friday as they marked the crucifixion of Christ, their country ravaged by two years of war and two of their bishops missing after being kidnapped by unknown gunmen.

Good Friday is a day when even the least pious tend to join in its solemn prayers and processions, but churches in Syria's capital, no longer safe from car bombings and mortar attacks, are unlikely to be full this year.

That was already the case on Holy Thursday, when streets leading to churches were blocked off and security forces out in numbers to protect the places of worship that one resident said were only sparsely visited.

"I won't dare go to church tonight," sighs Shaza, a mother who lives in the predominantly Christian and Druze neighborhood of Jaramana, lamenting that her children will miss the traditional parade by Scouts, which has been cancelled.

Yussef, a 30-year-old who lives in the Tijara neighborhood, said the "violence doesn't stop. At dawn this morning I heard a loud explosion... It was the jet fuel depot at Damascus airport that was burning."

Yussef was speaking just three days after a bomb blast in central Damascus killed at least 13 people and four days after Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi narrowly survived a car bomb that targeted him.

As the war between the regime of Bashar Assad and rebels fighting to oust the president gains pace, Orthodox in Syria are also praying for the safe return of Boulos Yazigi, metropolitan bishop of the northern city of Aleppo and brother of Yuhanna X Yazigi, their patriarch.

Yazigi and Aleppo's Syriac Orthodox bishop,Yuhanna Ibrahim, were kidnapped by unknown gunmen on April 22 as they were returning home from a trip to Turkey. Their driver, a Syriac Orthodox deacon, and another passenger were forced out of the car and the driver murdered, shot in the head.

Their whereabouts and fate is still unknown in a country where Christian clerics have been murdered, but where kidnapping for ransom is also rife.

In October, Greek Orthodox Father Fady al-Haddad was seized and killed in Damascus province as he was trying to negotiate the release of a Christian doctor who had been kidnapped.

Theft and kidnapping have become rampant in Syria, where criminals have taken advantage of the security vacuum caused by the fighting.

Patriarch Yuhanna has announced that this Easter he will not receive traditional greetings from the faithful.

Antoine, a 47-year-old doctor, said the "atmosphere is sad. For the third year we will be celebrating Easter with sadness, because the country is bleeding."

"We will pray for their return," he said, adding that Good Friday prayers would be dedicated to them.

"We believe in the resurrection (of Christ) and also that of Syria."

Gabriel, another Damascene, said that, this year, the "feast will boil down to just prayers, because blood continues to flow in our country."

Some Syrians have left the country altogether to celebrate Easter, to get away from the violence and the fear, and Hala has rented an apartment in Beirut, the capital of neighboring Lebanon.

"I came to calm my nerves and to see my son, who works in Qatar," she told Agence France Presse. "Life here is normal, and I try to forget for awhile the nightmare we are living in Syria."

Christians account for about five percent of Syria's multi-confessional population of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and of Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

While some may have fled the country and others are contemplating to leave, student Roula Salam, who lives in the central city of Homs, is defiant.

"Christians will remain despite all the hardships endured and everything used to chase us out," she said, pointing out that Christian roots in Syria date back to the beginning of the faith, 2,000 years ago.

Comments 4
Default-user-icon Defkosh Bangazdij (Guest) 03 May 2013, 23:32

But they were released immediately after Dr. Arreet 7akeh spoke with Dr. Abou Jreyj Sabra, the current Syrian biggie puppet until a Buddhist will be selected this time by the Sunni crazies (and they all are to varying degrees, this in addition to being filthier than the filthiest filth) in Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to show how varied their box of puppetry is. You go, doctors Arreetin 7akeh 3al Fadeh.

Missing abraham 04 May 2013, 06:51

i agree with you
Where are the so called leaders of the Syrian Arab spring
You expect the minorities be with you, in your so called revolution,when you kidnap their religious leaders.
As the saying goes, <the devil you know ismuch better than the devil you don't know>

Default-user-icon Khoshtovar Zabanguil (Guest) 04 May 2013, 15:33

They are no longer in captivity. Have you not heard the news? They were released minutes after the two Drs. Arreeteen 7akeh of the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr. Samir Geagea, the Lebanese biggie who never won a battle until he collaborated with the Syrian occupation, and Dr. George Sabra, who does not have a chance to win anything between now and the time his replacement, a Buddhist's turn, is picked by the callers for freedom and democracy, the very democratic Qatar and Saudi Fatawia. wlak min addkon ya 7ak...awatjiyeh?

Default-user-icon Patrick (Guest) 04 May 2013, 16:18

If this was the brother of the pope the reaction would of been completely different. Where is the West? These are 2 Bishops from the Orthodox Church of which one of these bishops is the brother of the PATRIARCH Of the Antiochian Orthodox Church! Wlek eeehh tfeee. Where are the Syrian Commandos when you need them? This is when they are needed most. This will certainly test whether the Syrians, let alone the, west INCLUDING the Russians give a shit about the leaders from within the Church. If the Syrian do nothing, this stinks like a rat.