Syria: Franciscan priest abducted by jihadists linked to al-Nusra

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/08/2014 - 17:04

A Franciscan parish priest in northern Syria is in the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra militia and there has been no news of him since the kidnapping. The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land reported the news.

The priest in question is Fr. Hanna Jallouf. He is parish priest of Knayeh (Qunayeh) in the Orontes valley, a historical Christian centre in northern Syria, on the border with Turkey. Fr. Hanna was not the only one to be abducted on Sunday night. A number of other Christian men were taken away too, while Franciscan nuns in the convent took shelter in nearby houses. “We are not able to say where father Hanna and his parishioners are now and, at this time, we have no possibility of contact with him or his captors,” a statement issued by the Custody of the Holy Land reads. “Let us pray for him and for the other victims of this tragic and senseless war.” Another member of the Order of the Friars Minor, the Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo, Georges Abou Khazen, also confirmed that the abduction had taken place, in a statement to Fides news agency.

Witnesses say the parish priest and the other missing individuals, were abducted by militia from the Islamic group Jabhat al-Nusra, a branch of al-Qaeda operating in Syria. The thing that is most concerning, is that on a number of occasions in recent weeks, Jabat al Nusra leaders said they intended to join forces with the Islamic State, overcoming the “competition” between the two Islamist entities. The events in Knayeh at this time seem to indicate that local Christian communities are in the crosshairs of this alliance “against the crusaders” – as they call it – again.

It is important to note that the Christian community in the Orontes valley in Syria, goes back a long way. About a year ago, in an interview with - the website dedicated to his community - Fr. Hanna Jallouf said: “Tradition has it that upon receiving the joyful news that he could convert the Greeks to Christianity, St.Paul travelled from Jerusalem to Antioch. There were three roads that connected Apamea to Antioch at the time. One was a military route that led to Aleppo; another ran along the Orontes river and was impossible to take because of flooding and a third route passed behind this hill. St. Paul will have passed through here, evangelising this land. So we are definitely descendants of the first Christians whom the missionary Apostle converted to the faith.”

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By Giorgio Bernardelli