As violence continues in many parts of their country, and after the abduction of a Franciscan priest on Saturday 4th July in north-west Syria, Syrian Christians have asked for renewed prayer for peace and for all affected by the ongoing conflict.
Father Dhiya Aziz, who is Iraqi, was taken by militants from the Idlib Province, where he serves as parish priest. The militants were, supposedly, taking him for a brief meeting with the Emir who exercises authority in that area, which is under the control of the al-Qaeda affiliate group, Jabhat an-Nusra.
The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land report that they have received no news of Fr. Dhiya since his abduction. They are, however, still hopeful, as two militants returned not long after the abduction to collect Fr. Dhiya’s medication, which they take as a sign that the militants do not plan to kill the priest.
However, several church leaders abducted by militant groups in recent years remain unaccounted for. These include: Fr. Michel Kayyal (Armenian Catholic) and Fr. Maher Mahfouz (Greek Orthodox), abducted in February 2013; Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim (Syriac Orthodox) and Bishop Boulos Yaziji (Greek Orthodox), abducted in April 2013; Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio (Jesuit), abducted in July 2013 – recent rumours suggest he may no longer be alive; and Fr. Jacques Mourad (Syriac Catholic), abducted in May 2015.
Syrian Christians ask us to pray that:
- Fr. Dhiya will know the Lord’s presence and protection, and that he will be released soon.
- Those who still remain unaccounted for will similarly know the Lord’s comfort and sustaining, and that they will be released soon.
- Those displaced from their homes will know the Lord’s care and provision, and will be able to return before long.
- Violence will cease, peace will be restored and the clear rule of law will be applied equally for all in Syria.
- Those responsible for the murder and abduction of innocent civilians will know the Spirit’s conviction of sin, seek the Father’s forgiveness and find new life in the Son
Psalm 32 vs 7: “You are my hiding-place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”