Arab Christians fear more kidnappings

Arab Christians are increasingly distressed by a rise in kidnappings of clergy and laity in Syria and Iraq.

Just days after the unexpected release of Iraqi Franciscan Fr Dhiya Aziz, Melkite Fr Tony Boutros and his Muslim driver were reported missing by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The watchdog said the priest serving in the southern city of Shahba was believed to have been kidnapped by unknown assailants after celebrating Mass on July 12. Fr Boutros is perhaps the eighth clerical victim of abduction in the war-ravaged country.

“Minority communities feel especially vulnerable to abduction, including kidnappings for ransom,” said the Christian rights group Middle East Concern, with Chaldean Catholic leaders appealing to government authorities to protect the lives and property of their people.

The fate of more than 200 Assyrian Christians abducted by the Islamic State militants in northeastern Syria in February remains unknown.

“The fire is burning throughout the Middle East and a culture of fear is growing,” said Fr Rifat Bader, director of Amman’s Catholic Centre for Studies and Media.