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Jihadists in Syria kidnap another priest 'to cut off head of Christian community'
"It is as though ISIS and other fanatical groups want to cut off the heads of the Christian communities to kill the body--the Church--and they should know that this will not work."
By John Pontifex and Clare Creegan
NEW YORK—Franciscan Father Diyaa Aziz was abducted from the mainly Christian village of Yaacobiya, in the north-western Syrian province of Idlib, by the Al-Nusra Front, an Islamist terror group linked to al-Qaeda.
Kidnapped on July 4, 2015, 40-year-old Father Aziz is the latest priest to be captured in a list which includes Archbishops Boulos Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim of Aleppo, Jesuit priest Father Paolo Dall’Oglio—who is feared dead—fellow Franciscan Father Hanna Jallouf, and Father Jacques Mourad, who was taken only last month.
Describing the latest kidnappings as part of a “contagion of evil,” Neville Kyrke-Smith, UK director of the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church, said: “We plead for prayers and mercy—for young Father Aziz, for Father Jacques Mourad and all the priests and bishops who have been kidnapped and for their people.
“It is as though ISIS and other fanatical groups want to cut off the heads of the Christian communities to kill the body—the Church—and they should know that this will not work. The faith is strong and Christians want to be part of the future in their and our historical homeland.”
Father Diyaa Aziz acted as parish priest for the community of both Catholic and Orthodox Armenians. The fate almost all the kidnapped clergy remains unknown. In October 2012, Greek Orthodox Father Fadi Haddad, a parish priest Qatana, 12 miles south-west of Damascus was kidnapped and his body was later discovered badly disfigured on a roadside near the capital.
In April 2014, Dutch Jesuit priest Father Frans van der Lugt, who had lived and worked in Syria for 40 years, was killed in Homs, where he ministered to Christians and others trapped in a war zone.
Kyrke-Smith said: “If anybody wishes to rebuild the Middle East we need the leaders of different communities to be respected and allowed to work with all people.”