72 Members of Congress Urge State Department to Prioritize Release of Kidnapped Archbishops in Syria

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Washington, DC – 72 Members of Congress, led by Representatives Brad Sherman (D-CA), Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Trent Franks (R-AZ), and Mike Pompeo (R-KS), urged the State Department to prioritize the release of two kidnapped Archbishops in a letter to Secretary Kerry. 

Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim, the Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo, were abducted by unknown assailants while carrying out humanitarian work in the northern province of Aleppo on April 22, 2013.  Their driver, Fatha’Allah Kabboud, a deacon in the Syriac Orthodox Church, was shot dead.  Pope Francis has called for the release of these Archbishops.   

“I am pleased that 72 bipartisan Representatives in the House joined together in urging the Secretary of State to make this issue a priority,” said Rep. Sherman, a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and a member of the International Religious Freedom Caucus. “We must do everything we can to ensure that Christians and other religious minorities have a safe future in Syria.  I am deeply alarmed about the safety of the Archbishops and call for their immediate and safe release.”

“It has been almost a month since Metropolitan Ibrahim and Metropolitan Yazigi were kidnapped,” said Rep. Bilirakis. “I am deeply concerned about their safety and demand their immediate return. These men of God faithfully served the Orthodox community during the ongoing conflict in Syria and their kidnapping highlights the troubling rise in abductions. This type of tragedy only heightens the need for the Assad regime to step aside. The United States needs to identify pro-democracy elements within Syria, so the country may work to establish a new government based on democratic institutions that promote and respect human rights and religious freedoms for all. I thank my colleagues in the House for joining us on this important letter urging Secretary Kerry to prioritize the safe return of the Archbishops to Aleppo.”

“I am deeply concerned for the safety of Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim, the Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo, who were kidnapped as they carried out humanitarian work near the Turkish border of Syria,” said Rep. Maloney. “Not only were these religious leaders abducted, but their driver, an innocent victim, was murdered by these armed individuals.  It is a travesty that weeks have gone by since the Archbishops were initially captured, and we have still heard nothing on their release.  These Archbishops have nothing to do with the Syrian civil war, and I call on their immediate and safe release.”

“The kidnapping of Metropolitan Ibrahim and Metropolitan Yazigi is part of an alarming trend of violence directed at religious minorities, especially Christians,” said Rep. Pompeo. “I am glad to be joined by 71 Members of the House of Representatives to demand the release of the Archbishops and to reaffirm our commitment to religious freedom around the world.”

“We urge the State Department to make Metropolitan Yazigi and Metropolitan Ibrahim’s immediate release and safe return to Aleppo a priority in our efforts in the region,” said the Members in the letter.  “As Members of Congress committed to religious freedom in the Middle East and around the world, we believe the United States must do everything it can to ensure that all the diverse religions and ethnicities of Syria have a safe future.”

Full text of letter:

The Honorable John Kerry

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

Washington, D.C. 

Dear Secretary Kerry,

We write to express our grave concern over the kidnapping of Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim, the Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo. The two Archbishops were abducted by unknown assailants while carrying out humanitarian work in the northern province of Aleppo on April 22, 2013.  We mourn the murder of Fatha’Allah Kabboud, a deacon in the Syriac Orthodox Church, who was serving as the Archbishops’ driver at the time of their abduction.

We urge the State Department to make Metropolitan Yazigi and Metropolitan Ibrahim’s immediate release and safe return to Aleppo a priority in our efforts in the region. 

Metropolitan Yazigi and Metropolitan Ibrahim had previously made public pronouncements that religious tolerance and diversity was under threat from the two-year conflict in their country. 

The kidnapping of Metropolitan Yazigi and Metropolitan Ibrahim reflects the troubling rise in abductions in Syria, the expanding chaos and brutality of the civil war that has killed more than 70,000 Syrians, and an increasingly dangerous environment for religious minorities. 

As Members of Congress committed to religious freedom in the Middle East and around the world, we believe the United States must do everything it can to ensure that all the diverse religions and ethnicities of Syria have a safe future.  

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Brad Sherman

The Honorable Gus M. Bilirakis

The Honorable Carolyn Maloney

The Honorable John Sarbanes

The Honorable Trent Franks

The Honorable Mike Pompeo

The Honorable Eliot Engel

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.

The Honorable Joseph Crowley

The Honorable Peter King

The Honorable Chris Van Hollen

The Honorable Peter Roskam

The Honorable Darrell Issa

The Honorable Don Young

The Honorable Steve Israel

The Honorable Charles B. Rangel

The Honorable Walter Jones

The Honorable Chris Smith

The Honorable Carolyn McCarthy

The Honorable Nick J. Rahall, II

The Honorable Doug Lamborn

The Honorable James P. McGovern

The Honorable William Keating

The Honorable Jim Langevin

The Honorable Michael E. Capuano

The Honorable Albio Sires

The Honorable Mike Fitzpatrick

The Honorable Frank R. Wolf

The Honorable Gerald Connolly

The Honorable Peter DeFazio

The Honorable Bill Johnson

The Honorable Bill Foster

The Honorable Michael F. Doyle

The Honorable Anna Eshoo

The Honorable Justin Amash

The Honorable Jared Polis

The Honorable John A. Culberson

The Honorable Bill Huizenga

The Honorable Gary C. Peters

The Honorable Pete Olson

The Honorable Rick Larsen

The Honorable Steven Cohen

The Honorable Tim Huelskamp

The Honorable Tim Griffin

The Honorable Roger Williams

The Honorable Jim Bridenstine

The Honorable Tim Murphy

The Honorable Michael H. Michaud

The Honorable Matt Salmon

The Honorable Alan Nunnelee

The Honorable Bill Pascrell, Jr.

The Honorable Scott Garrett

The Honorable Gregg Harper

The Honorable Steven Palazzo

The Honorable Keith J. Rothfus

The Honorable Richard Hanna

The Honorable Joseph R. Pitts

The Honorable Kevin Cramer

The Honorable Andy Harris

The Honorable James Lankford

The Honorable Stephen Fincher

The Honorable Jan Schakowsky

The Honorable David N. Cicilline

The Honorable Chris Stewart

The Honorable Rush Holt

The Honorable Ted Deutch

The Honorable James P. Moran

The Honorable Leonard Lance

The Honorable Rodney Davis

The Honorable Joaquin Castro

The Honorable Grace Meng

The Honorable Lynn Jenkins

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