Around 160 Christians are thought to have been captured when extremist Islamist militia Daesh (ISIS) took over the town of Al Qaryatayn near Homs, Syria on Thursday 6th August according to a priest working in the region. But speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, the charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Father Jihad Youssef that the exact number of hostages was unclear.
“But we do not know if all of the remaining Christians were taken as hostages by ISIS, or if some went into hiding. At the end of the week, some 30 Christians succeeded in fleeing from the town. Some are shepherds and they know the region. They fled to Homs.” The Syrian-Orthodox and Syrian-Catholic Bishops of Homs are currently seeking to resolve the problem through contacts, according to Fr Jihad.
In May 2015, one of Fr Jihad’s confreres, Fr Jacques Mourad, was kidnapped in Al Qaryatayn together with Deacon Boutros. Their whereabouts are still unknown.
“We have absolutely no information about Fr Jacques’ condition, or where he is,” said Fr Jihad. “We have tried everything. I do not know how the latest events in Al Qaryatayn will affect our brothers’ situation. If a solution can be found for all of the hostages, perhaps Fr Jacques and Deacon Boutros will be included.”
Fr Jihad also expressed his gratitude for the support ACN has provided for Christians in Syria. He said:“ACN has done so much for us, especially in Al Qaryatayn. We thank the benefactors with all our heart. In particular, I now call on you to pray for our kidnapped brothers and the hostages of Al Qaryatayn. May God bring a change into the hearts of the kidnappers, so that they show mercy to the hostages.”
The charity ACN is particularly active in the Middle East. More than €12 million (£8.4 million) have been spent since the end of 2011 in assistance to the Christians in Syria and Iraq. Recently, ACN has set aside more than €2 million (£1.4 million) for emergency aid in Syria.