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Abducted Syrian Church Leaders: His Grace Yohanna Ibrahim, the Syrian-Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and His Excellency Boulos al-Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo and Iskandaroun. (Photo credit: orthodoxherald.com)

Abducted Syrian Church Leaders: His Grace Yohanna Ibrahim, the Syrian-Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and His Excellency Boulos al-Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo and Iskandaroun. (Photo credit: orthodoxherald.com)

By Faith J. H. McDonnell (@Cuchulain09)

Last week I wrote that Saturday, May 11, was a day when our brother and sister Syrian Christians asked specifically for prayer for Syria. Did you pray?

Today I read this blog post demanding to know if anyone cares that two Syrian Orthodox bishops were kidnapped. The author, John Mark Reynolds, explains that Metropolitan Boulos (Paul) Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo and Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim, the Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo, were both on humanitarian missions when they were abducted. One was negotiating on behalf of two Syrian priests who previously had been abducted.

“American Christians often forget that the Middle East contains hundreds of thousands of Christians,” says Reynolds. “The Christian liturgy is said in Arabic across the Middle East and Damascus (Syria) is the headquarters of the Patriarchate of Antioch. During the civil war raging in the country, Orthodox bishops have given relief to people who are hurting of every religion.”

Reynolds points out that it was in Turkey and Syria that followers of Jesus were first called Christians. “Saint Paul came to the Faith there and planted churches throughout the region and Peter was a leader in Syria before he ever went to Rome. All the great Christian creeds were shaped by Syrian Christians from the lands now controlled by Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria.”

But that was a long time ago! Do we 21st century Christians with problems of our own about which to worry care about these two Syrian bishops or priests who were abducted? Do we feel any responsibility to be advocates and intercessors for the Church in the Middle East, oppressed and persecuted under Islamist supremacism?

U.S. Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) is sponsoring a bi-partisan appeal to Secretary of State John Kerry asking the State Department make the immediate release of Metropolitan Yazigi and Metropolitan Ibrahim “a priority in our efforts in Syria.” Sherman urges other members to sign, saying, “as Members of Congress committed to religious pluralism in the Middle East and around the world, we believe the United States must do everything it can to ensure that Christians and other religious minorities have a safe future in Syria.”

The deadline for members of Congress to sign the letter to Secretary Kerry is this Friday, May 17, at noon. Reynolds urges Christians to show that they do care about the Christians in Syria by contacting their own member of Congress and requesting that they sign the letter. He provides instructions for reaching and communicating with congressional offices.

This action will take only moments, but may persuade your member of Congress to sign onto the letter. If you are willing, you can take further action by encouraging others through social media, email, and personal conversations (novel idea!) to contact their member of Congress, too.

Reynolds concludes:

For hundreds of years, the Christian people of Syria have witnessed to Christ by surviving to pray. Daily they have prayed for peace and for the salvation of the world from sin and injustice. Daily they have fed and clothed the poor. Daily they have faced the rigors of second class citizenship, but found ways to survive. Sometimes evil regimes have killed them, other times they have been captured by unworthy service, but for centuries the common Christian has prayed, served their nation as patriots and with dignity, and been sanctified by suffering.

We should pray tonight for their survival, because their prayers over the ages surely have done more good for us than we can imagine.