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Still No News of Kidnapped Syrian Monk

Father Jacques Mourad of St. Elyan Monastery in Syria

Father Ziad Hilal, SJ/Aid to the Church in Need

John Burger - published on 06/02/15

Whether he was taken by Islamic State or collaborators remains mystery

It is still not clear who kidnapped Father Jaques Mourad, the Syrian monk kidnapped in the area of Homs on May 21, but there is a theory that his abductors collaborated with the Islamic State group.

Fides news agency reports that Father Mourad, who since 1991 rebuilt the ancient monastery of St. Elias near the village of Al-Qaryatayn,  was very much appreciated for his dialogue, closeness and friendship towards the majority Sunni Muslim population in the area.

"The Muslim leaders of the community, village chiefs, clan leaders denounced the kidnapping and are now trying to open a channel and find a path for the release," a local source told Fides. However, "it seems that the people or groups who seized him are foreign to the social, ethnic and religious fabric of the area."

According to the source, "the timeliness of the fall of Palmyra, a nearby town, and the kidnapping of Fr. Mourad, which occurred soon after, suggest a link with the Islamic state (IS). If this were confirmed, it would not be a promising sign: the local Islamic authorities have no influence on the IS. The circulating hypothesis is that some inhabitants of the area, for pure sectarian hatred, took him and then sold him to the Islamic State."

Some news reports say Father Mourad was kidnapped along with a deacon, Boutros Hanna. Since the kidnapping, the monastery of St. Elias has closed. The priest, who had come from the same monastic community as a priest who was kidnapped almost two years ago, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, served the local Syrian Catholic parish, with about 300 faithful, and promoted many initiatives at an ecumenical and interreligious level.

Over the past two years, with the outbreak of the war, the sectarian propaganda deepened and jihadi groups began to disparage and despise non-Muslims, Fides said.

"Father Jaques lived a constant commitment to dialogue, prayer, reconciliation," the anonymous source said. "He promoted solidarity among families of different religions, he was an example of humanitarian service without religious or ethnic labels. His life was an example to defuse sectarianism."

Islamist MilitantsSyria
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