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Aleppo bishops’ abduction draws Lebanese ire

  • Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani speaks during a press conference in Dar al-Fatwa in Beirut, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: The kidnapping of two archbishops in Aleppo drew strong condemnation Tuesday from Lebanese political and religious figures.

President Michel Sleiman said the abduction of Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox archbishops of Aleppo respectively, would not yield the desired results.

“These methods don’t achieve the goals of those [those behind the kidnapping] and doesn’t help them achieve the democracy they are striving for,” Sleiman said according to the National News Agency.

The president also called for the release of all hostages currently being held captive and for them to be returned to their families, the NNA added.

Nine Lebanese pilgrims were kidnapped in Aleppo, north Syria, last year while returning from Iran. The families of the kidnapped pilgrims have staged various protests to demand their release.

Similarly, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri described the kidnapping as an act of terrorism.

“This regrettable incident, which we strongly condemn, contradicts basic human and moral values,” Hariri said in a statement.

The abductions also disagree with the principles of the Syrian revolution and coexistence, Hariri added.

Lebanon's Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani also denounced acts that "harm any religious authority figure regardless to which sect he belongs” and called for the bishops’ release.

Ibrahim and Yazigi were kidnapped by armed gunmen in Aleppo Monday evening, the state-run SANA news agency said

SANA said the bishops were dragged from their car by “terrorists” after carrying out humanitarian work in the village of Kfour Dael in Aleppo province.

Their driver, also a priest, was killed during the attack. The incident marks the most first time senior Christian figures have been targeted in Syria’s civil war.

Qabbani believed there were “attempts to ignite sectarian strife between Muslims and Christians in Syria that would lead to Christian-Muslim conflict in the region.”

He expressed concerns that such attempts aimed at distorting Islam’s image.

For his part, Shiite scholar Sayyed Ali Fadlallah said both Christian and Muslim authorities must condemn the kidnapping “which is a direct assault on the freedom of two figures that have long worked toward unifying ranks and rejecting strife.”

He also called for combining Christian-Muslim efforts to secure their release.

Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra condemned the bishops’ abduction, saying that only the Syrian regime has an interest in the intimidation of Christians.

Assad’s regime, Zahra said in a statement, “wants to tell Christians that the alternative is a Takfiri authority that does not recognize the other.”

“This is misleading because the Syrian Revolution is not Takfiri,” he added.

The Kataeb party’s Ashrafieh Branch condemned the incident in a statement.

The party slammed, ”the acts of kidnapping that include clergymen who work for peace and toward alleviating the suffering of their people.”

 
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