(Source: World Council of Churches)
(Source: World Council of Churches)

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has called for the release of two Syrian archbishops kidnapped five years ago.

“The Central Committee recalls with heavy hearts the abduction five years ago of the archbishops of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi,” the WCC said in a statement following a six-day meeting last week. “We continue to pray for their safe return to their churches, their communities and their families, as a sign of hope for all the Christians of Syria and the region.”

Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul, or “Boulos”, Yazigi, respective heads of the Syriac and Greek Orthodox Churches in Aleppo, were kidnapped near the Turkish border in April 2013. There has been no news about them ever since.

In all, five Syrian church leaders abducted during the ongoing Syrian Civil War are still missing.

A recent report about violence against Syrian church leaders during the war documented the cases of 19 clerics who had been either beaten, abducted or killed.

The Geneva-based WCC said a “new social pact” is needed in the Middle East: “A common narrative that is developed and shared by all communities of the countries of the region based on an inclusive understanding of citizenship and human rights, constitutionally guaranteed, and under which all churches and faith communities, with their diverse ethnic, religious and cultural identities, can live and prosper in the love and grace given to all by God.”

Pope Francis visited the WCC on 21 June to commemorate its 70th anniversary.