Syrian bishop demands the release of abducted nuns
"I demand the immediate release of the nuns, who have done no harm to anyone." These were the words of a local Catholic leader in Syria following the abduction of nuns from Maalula.
The Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama, Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, called on all to put pressure on the abductors.
"We've now reached the point where even nuns are being abducted. What have they done wrong? It's a crime. The abductors want to demonstrate that they know no mercy."
He made his comments on Monday, December 9th, while speaking with international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Twelve Greek Orthodox Sisters from the Convent of Saint Thekla of Maalula to the north of Damascus were captured last week by supposedly Islamist fighters after the Christian town had been conquered by opposition troops.
"I am very sad that they have been abducted. There is no communication with them. According to information I have, they are probably being held in Yabrud, which is 20 kilometers from Maalula.”
“The television channel Al Jazeera broadcast video recordings of the Sisters at the end of last week. In these, they made statements that they had been removed for their own safety. We don't know how recent the recordings are and how the Sisters are now."
The Bishop stressed that the nuns had been completely apolitical and had dedicated themselves exclusively to prayer and charity works.
"They were neither on the side of the regime nor on that of the opposition. In the convent, they took in war refugees without regard to their religion, including Muslims."
Bishop Alnemeh was not able to say anything about the whereabouts of the Syrian Archbishops abducted in April.
"To date it has not been possible to confirm any of the information about where there are being held."
There were, for instance, rumors that only one of them was still alive. His location was sometimes given as Syria and sometimes as Turkey. "We simply don't know," the Bishop explained.
His fellow Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Mar Gregorius Yohanna Ibrahim and the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul Yazigi were the ones abducted.
Bishop Alnemeh appealed to all states and international organizations to commit themselves to bringing about an end to the war in Syria.
"The Syrian people no longer believe that this is revolution or reform, or the setting up of a new state on a clear foundation," according to Bishop Alnemeh.
Nevertheless they were pinning their hopes on the peace conference Geneva 2, scheduled for January.
Christians had been particularly affected by the conflict. In his episcopal city of Homs alone, 100,000 Christians had had to flee, churches had been destroyed and almost three thousand Christians had lost their lives.