Abduction of Fr. Hanna Jallouf "is a snapshot of the kind of life Christians are living in Syria"

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/10/2014 - 14:39

The entire affair surrounding the disappearance of Fr. Hanna Jallouf and his parishioners is a snapshot of the kind of life Christians are living in Syria, caught as they are in the midst of a propaganda battle

It seems like the apparent abduction of Syrian priest Hanna Jallouf along with twenty or so parishioners by a group of jihadist militia last Sunday night in the village of Knayeh may have a happy ending. Some new information has come to light, clearing up what had up until now been a confused affair. It now seems evident that the priest was not abducted with the intent of extortion. The Islamic court of Darkush, just a few kilometres away from Knayeh, apparently ordered his arrest as a punitive measure.

This morning the Franciscan parish priest was released by those who had been keeping him locked up a kilometre away from his parish. The four female parishioners who had been captured along with the priest were released yesterday. However, local sources told Vatican Insider that at least five men are still being held, awaiting the Islamic court’s decision. The priest himself was ordered by the court not to leave the village.

It is reasonable to assume that the body guaranteeing the “new order” which the Islamists want to impose in the areas under their control was involved in or backed the operation. It was to that very court that the priest representing the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land reported the growing instances of violence by groups of armed Islamists, before the the blitz on the convent. These groups had got their hands of the land surrounding the convent, seized the olive crop and had started to stake claims on the nuns’ home.

The whole affair is an objective portrayal of the reality Syrian Christians face and as such it contains elements that are key to understanding how fragile their situation is and the uncertainties and ups and downs they face.

When the uprising against the Assad regime began, mainstream Western media indiscriminately accused Syrian Christians of an alleged complicity with the Syrian regime. When the rebels entered the Knayeh region, some Christians, along with an Orthodox priest swiftly fled from the nearby village of Yacoubieh because they were considered to be too closely connected to the government. But Fr. Hanna and the Catholics from the Latin parish of Knayeh were not expelled. Not because they supported the opposition against the regime but simply because being unarmed, they threatened no militancy and did not back any political factions. They respected the established order. As Christians traditionally tend to do, following in the footsteps of St. Paul.

In the early days of the Syrian conflict, the anti-Assad groups that were labelled “lay” and backed by the West, did their utmost to give credit to individual Christian figures for their involvement in anti-regime initiatives. They did this through the media. In an interview given in the summer of 2012, figures such as George Sabra, who is spokesman for the Syrian National Council but known by few back home, announced that the fall of the Syrian regime was nigh and proclaimed the advent of a “democratic, potentially lay” Syria that would be “reconciled and free from oppression”. On the other end of the pitch, Assad’s men continued to present the Syrian regime as the “protector” of Christians. During the last Easter celebrations, which received wide coverage from government television, President Bashar al Assad decided to visit Maalula, an ancient Christian city which had just been snatched from the hands of the rebels. The latter had taken it without encountering too much resistance from the government’s army.

In the ambiguous games that are being played by rival propagandas, Christians find themselves cheapened, cajoled, badly treated and brandished about as trophies. Now, even the Western mainstream media have left aside their fervent support for a feeble “democratic” opposition and are now obsessed with raising alarm bells about the jihadist takeover, without paying too much attention to the unconfessed complicity of members of the international community. But there are other hidden dangers lurking for Christians, other than real and potential persecution. This includes pressure from those – in both the Middle East and the West – who are promoting the formation of armed “Christian brigades” called to participate in the struggle against he jihadists. “But as men of the Church we cannot incite Christians to take up arms and take part in the conflict,” said the wise Archbishop of Hassakè-Nisibi (Syria), Jacques Behnan Hindo, at the end of 2013. “We cannot say such things, it is foolish. It goes against the Gospel and Christian doctrine.”

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By Gianni Valente