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SSVDP Update on Syrian Hostages

by | Apr 14, 2015 | News, Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Syria-Area-MapFound on the international site of the Society of St. Vincent dePaul (SSVDP) 4/7/15 …Syria: situation of Christians in Hassakeh

At the beginning of March we were very disturbed to learn of the kidnapping of at least 200 Christians by adherents of the so-called “Islamic State”, in the Hassakeh region of Syria. There are several of our fellow members among the hostages, and we have had no news about them. Over the past few weeks, the International Council General has been making efforts through its local contacts to obtain more information about the fate of the hostages, and we can now report some details.

[Read the Call for solidarity with Christians in Syria of Ella Bittar – President of the National Council of Lebanon]

The town of Hassakeh, where the SSVP is established, lies in a conflict zone between the Kurdish fighters and the jihadists of Islamic State. Many of the surrounding villages have been attacked and are presently under the control of the jihadists. The people from these villages have fled to the cities or neighbouring countries to find refuge, hoping to be able to emigrate to Europe.

They are in a disastrous situation, with families receiving little or no help, depending on where they are. Local NGOs are overwhelmed and can only provide help to refugees from their scanty resources.  The SSVP conferences are redoubling their efforts, in their commitment to bring aid to all these displaced families. In Hassakeh, still under the control of Kurdish and Syrian government forces, the position is even worse: the people are taking refuge in churches, convents and schools, but they receive no help, and are cut off from the world, as nearby Turkey has closed its borders, and fighting rages just a few kilometres away.  They have nothing; they are living in hunger, fear and dread.  Communications are very difficult with people who remain in the town.  The little information we have comes via Vincentian members presently in Europe. They have confirmed to us that many of the people have fled and are dispersed in neighbouring countries or overseas. They have no news of their fellow members remaining behind.

As regards the fate of the 200 Christians kidnapped by the jihadists, no-one has been able to find out more details.  The local situation is extremely confused, and there is no way of determining for certain if some of our fellow members who have disappeared have simply fled, or are among the hostages.  We do know, however, from our contacts in neighbouring countries, that negotiations will be underway to obtain their release, probably in exchange for a ransom.

Faced with this dramatic situation, the Vincentian community has demonstrated its sympathy, its sorrow and its solidarity with the Christians of Hassakeh, through messages on social networks, many e-mails sent to CGI, and calls for prayers to save this land where Christianity was born.

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