Efforts are underway to secure the release of a group of Orthodox nuns who are believed to have been kidnapped by Islamist insurgents in the Syrian town of Maaloula.
The head of Lebanon’s security ministry, General Abbas Ibrahim, has been in Doha, Qatar, for the past two days to help secure their freedom. For the past few months, Ibrahim has also been working to locate the whereabouts of Orthodox bishops Boulos Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim who were abducted in April near Aleppo.
Lebanon is hoping that Qatari mediation can be as effective as it was two months ago, when it helped release a group of Lebanese Shia pilgrims along with Turkish intervention, Asia News reports.
General Ibrahim travelled to Doha with an official letter from President Michel Sleiman, in which the Lebanese head of state asks for the emirate’s good offices on these two abductions.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon appealed for the nuns’ release today. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement that the Secretary-General remains “deeply troubled” by the targeting of places of worship and religious representatives in Syria’s conflict.
“These concerns are most recently underscored by the situation of the 12 nuns who went missing from Saint Tecla Orthodox Convent in Maaloula,” he said. “The Secretary-General joins in the appeals for their safety and well-being, and that of all persons who may be detained against their will in Syria.
Pope Francis appealed for the nuns’ release during his general audience Dec. 4th, and called on the faithful to pray for their safe return.
The violence in Syria is continuing unabated since fighting first broke out in March 2011 between the Government and opposition forces seeking the ouster of President Bashar Al-Assad. The conflict has already claimed over 100,000 lives and driven over 6 million people from their homes.