This morning, two Catholic priests from Homs told me of the abduction of the Rev. Dhiya Aziz, who belongs to the Franciscan missionaries serving in the Holy Land. The kidnapping took place on Saturday 4 July, while he was in his parish of Yacubiyeh, a village in Syria’s Idlib province, more than 56 miles northeast of Latakia. The Franciscans are asking for prayers, and released this communique yesterday:
“Some militants of an unknown armed brigade, perhaps connected with Jahbat al-Nusra, came to take him away for a brief interview with the Emir of the place. From that moment we do not have any more news and we are unable to trace his where abouts at the present moment…We are doing everything possible to locate the place of his detention and secure his release. We entrust him to the prayers of all.”
The whole area is under the control of different Islamic armed brigades, including Jabhat al-Nusra — which is affiliated with al Qaeda and is considered the most powerful and predominant force. They also mentioned that another Franciscan priest, the Rev. Francois Murad, was abducted and killed in the same region in June 2013. Father Dhiya’s kidnapping is the latest in a series of attacks on Christian religious since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
Read more. And please keep all those serving in the Middle East in your prayers.