Gunmen Seize 2 Syria Bishops

Prominent Christian clerics abducted in rebel-held region

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 23, 2013 2:48 AM CDT

(Newser) – Unknown gunmen abducted two prominent Syrian bishops as they traveled through rebel-held territory from the Turkish border, according to both state media and the opposition leadership. Christians make up around 10% of Syria's population and the kidnapped pair—the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox archbishops of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi—are the most prominent Christian clerics caught up in the country's civil war, the BBC reports. The kidnappings are reverberating through the Christian community, adds al Jazeera, and leaders consider the situation in Syria to be quickly deteriorating.

An opposition spokesman says "all probabilities are open" as to who may have seized the pair, reports Reuters, which notes that both men had warned that the Syrian conflict—and other Arab Spring uprisings—had the potential to destroy the Middle East's long history of religious diversity. "What is the spring without the diversity and richness of colors in comparison with the haze ... of winter?" Yazigi wrote earlier this year. "Diversity is richness while monochromatic uniformity is a ticking bomb that kills its owner."

A church dome is seen through a convent window damaged by artillery fire in Syria.
A church dome is seen through a convent window damaged by artillery fire in Syria.   (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman)
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