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Militants in Syria abduct 2 Christian metropolitans, kill driver

April 23, 2013, 1:45 UTC+3

There is an increasing incidence of abductions of Christians for ransom

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MOSCOW, April 23 (Itar-Tass) - Militants operating in Syria have kidnapped two Christian metropolitans, Itar-Tass was told late night Monday by archpriest Nikolai Balashov, a deputy chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations.

He said the information on the abduction had been provided by his counterparts in Syria.

‘Metropolitan Paul (Yazigi) of Aleppo, who is a brother of the Patriarch John of Antioch, and the Syrian Jacobite Metropolitan of Aleppo & Environs, Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, were seized by militants on the road from Antioch to Aleppo Monday, April 22,” the Right Reverend Balashov said.

“Sadly, this data has been fully confirmed,” he said.

The Russian Orthodox Church urges all the Christians of the world to pray for the salvation of their brethren in Syria where the militants subject them to purges and persecution on the territories, which the government does not control anymore.

Earlier, the Chairman of the department for external church relations, Metropolitan Hillarion said he was keeping close contact with the hierarchs of the Antioch Orthodox Church. “They tell me that Christianity is exterminated up to the last believer in the territories where rebel groupings come to power - the Christians are either expelled or simply killed.”

There is an increasing incidence of abductions of Christians for ransom.

His Beatitude Hillarion underlined Syria’s centuries-old experience of tolerant co-existence of Moslems and Christians of various denominations - Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Syriac Catholics, Maronite Christians, and Armenian Apostolic Christians.

“Syria has given shelter two more than 2 million Iraqi refugees and several thousand of them are Christians,” he said. “Now we can plainly state that external armed interference is going on in that country.”

“Thousands of paramilitaries and extremists disguised as opposition forces have unleashed a civil war in Syria,” Metropolitan Hillarion said. “Extremist groupings and the so-called Jamaats consisting of Wahhabi militants, whose arming and combat training has been financed by foreign countries, are purposefully exterminating Christians.”

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