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Missing Italian Priest in Syria Reported as Still Alive

  • Religion Today
    Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world
  • 2013 Oct 03
  • Comments

An Italian Jesuit priest who went missing in Syria several months ago is still alive, according to an Assyrian priest speaking at the European Parliament on Tuesday, Open Doors USA reports. Archdeacon Emanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church in the East said the latest reports from inside Syria were that Father Paolo Dall'Oglio is alive, although no more detail was given about his condition. Reuters reported on July 29 that Dall'Oglio had been abducted by Islamists with links to al-Qaeda in the northern Syrian city of ar-Raqqah, but the Vatican would not confirm the news. A month later, several reports claimed that the priest had been killed, although the Vatican remained tight-lipped. The UK-based pro-opposition Syrian Observatory of Human Rights recently reported that the priest was kidnapped after a visit to the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, linked to al Qaeda) rebel group headquarters, as did All4Syria -- an agency which operated as an anti-Assad online news outlet for several years before the outbreak of war in Syria. Dall'Oglio is not the only priest in Syria whose whereabouts and well-being have created headlines in recent months. Bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji were kidnapped in April and have yet to be released. Fr. Youkhana was a guest speaker at the presentation of a report, "Vulnerability Assessment of Syria's Christians," to a packed room of Brussels parliamentarians, policymakers and NGOs by Open Doors International. Beyond the kidnappings of leading Christian figures inside the country, the situation for the nation's Christian minority is precarious. Open Doors spokesperson Esther Kattenberg said Syria's Christians are "squeezed" in between a rock and a hard place, neither feeling comfortable siding with the widely condemned current al-Assad government, nor the various factions -- many of which are Islamists with links to al Qaeda -- which make up the opposition.