BEIRUT: Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi appealed Thursday to the international community to exert all possible efforts to secure the release of the12 nuns who were forced to evacuate a monastery in the Syrian town of Maaloula.
“I appeal to the international community to exert all efforts to help secure the release of the abducted nuns from Mar Takla Monastery in Maaloula,” Yazigi said in a televised news conference, adding that he was informed the rebels took the nuns to the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud.
“We do not want the decision-making authorities on the international and regional levels to merely express condemnation but efforts and pressure to release those whose only sin is their love of their land and monastery,” said the patriarch whose brother is one of two bishops who were kidnapped in Syria earlier this month.
Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were abducted in April by armed men while en route to the northern Syrian city from the Turkish border. They were reportedly on their way to negotiate the release of three priests who are also missing.
Rebels from the Islamist Nusra Front recaptured Maaloula, located north of Damascus, Monday from regime forces following heavy clashes. At the time of the recapture, the nuns were inside the convent and were among only a few residents left in the historic Christian town.
The nuns were forced to evacuate the covenant along with dozens of orphans who were trapped in the monastery since September. It was not clear whether they were evacuated or kidnapped.
Yazigi said acts against Christians would not shake their commitment to their land, saying that “the bells of our churches, we the Christians of the east, tolled in the past and will remain tolling so that everyone can hear the love we have for others of different religions.”
“The ruthlessness of the coming days will not force us to abandon our land,” he said, adding that such behavior targets Christians and Muslims alike.
Yazigi also said he suspended his visit to various Gulf countries in light of the developments in Maaloula.