Christian leaders across the world encouraged prayer in response to reports that ISIS militants kidnapped dozens of Assyrian Christians after attacking and seizing two villages Feb 24.
News agencies reported an international response to the kidnapping of an estimated 90 Christians in northeast Syria this week. Some leaders expressed growing fears for the captives taken by the extremist group with a history of persecuting Christians.
With employees of the Archdiocese of Denver, Archbishop Samuel Aquila led a prayer during a meeting Feb. 24, showing concern for the captured Christians. He discussed the same extremist group’s recent murder of 21 Coptic Christians in a column for the Denver Catholic Feb. 24, saying that their example should inspire faithful to deepen their resolve during Lent.
“The faith of these Coptic Christians was simple,” the archbishop wrote. “.. As they were being executed, some of the men can be seen in the video saying, ‘Lord, Jesus Christ!’ with their last breath.”
Internationally, Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, the Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, said prayer is the best response to the news of captured Assyrian Christians, Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported.
“Let’s pray for those innocent people,” Patriarch Younan said to CNA over the phone from Beirut. “It’s a very, let’s say, very ordinary thing to have those people with such hatred toward non-Muslims that they don’t respect any human life.”
Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, an Iraqi abbot who works to support persecuted Christians in the region, sent a message to Catholic agencies about the urgent need to support Christians in the Middle East.
He wrote to Aid to the Church in Need that families from various regions were taken to the Arab Sunni village of Um Al-Masamier. The exact number of captured Christians has not been confirmed.
“They are alive so far, but the men are separated from women and children,” Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana reportedly wrote to the agency.
Since the rise of ISIS in Iraq last June, more than 1.8 million have fled and sought refuge from the militant group that’s beheaded and murdered Christians.