by Robin Phillips
A group of nuns and orphans remain missing after their abduction at the hands of Syrian rebels.
Over two months have now elapsed since Mother Superior Pelagia Sayyaf and at least 11 other nuns were kidnapped on 2 December from their Convent of St. Thecla, Maaloula, Syria. The orphans who lived in the monastery were also taken captive.
A group calling themselves the “Free Qalamoun Battalion” accepted responsibility for the seizure, which occurred at one of the most ancient Christians communities. The group is associated with al-Qaida and forms one of the many armies that have been trying to overthrow the lawful Syrian government.
The kidnappers have refused to free the nuns until their demands have been met. These demands include the release of 1,000 Syrian rebels held in regime prisons.
Mother Pelagia is reported to have got a message through to say that she and the sisters were “fine and safe.” In a video released by the rebels, Mother Pelagia and the nuns testified to their safety and well-being, although it is uncertain if they said this under duress. Metropolitan Philip, leader of the Antiochian Orthodox church in America, disregarded the video as a “mockery,” asserting that the nuns were forced into making this video under “extreme psychological pressure.”
Father Nicola Daoud of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Tripoli and Koura has warned that Mother Pelagia and her nuns may suffer the same fate as two previously kidnapped archbishops that we reported on last June.
Syrian rebels have raped at least 37,000 women in the civil war to overthrow the government.
The worst case scenario is that the nuns have been raped and sexually abused by their captors. A report issued by the National Reconciliation Commission in Syria states that some 37,000 women have been raped since the civil war began. Raymond Ibrahim reported in The American Thinker that “pro-war Islamic clerics have issued any number of fatwas, or Islamic rulings, permitting sexually frustrated, female-deprived rebels to rape women.” The brutal history of attacks against women bear this out.Raymond Ibrahim has chronicled some of these:
- Somalia: In response to Pope Benedict’s historical quotes, which, like so many other things —including teddy bears — so enraged the Islamic world, Muslims in Somalia shot Leonella Sgarbati — a 66-year-old nun who had devoted 30 years of her life working in Africa — in her back. Her last words before dying in hospital were: “I forgive; I forgive.”
- Pakistan: In September 2012, gunmen on motorbikes dressed in green (Islam’s color) opened fire on the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Cathedral in Hyderabad, murdering at least 28 people. Their immediate target was a nun, Mother Christina.
- Libya: In February 2013, after the fall of Col. Gaddafi, Islamic rebels threatened Christian nuns into fleeing the nation. They had been there since 1921, focused primarily on helping the sick and needy.
- Philippines: In an article discussing a Christmas Day church bombing in a Muslim-majority region, we learn that the jihadi group responsible “has been blamed for several bomb attacks on the Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo since the early 2000s and for kidnapping priests and nuns.”
- Guinea: In June 2013, during a mob-led frenzy, Christians and their churches were savagely attacked in the Muslim-majority nation — with some 95 Christians slain and 130 wounded — including “the quarters of the nuns, [which] was looted before being torched.”
United States Strangely Silent Amid International Outcry
The lawful Syrian government and state-run news organizations have joined the international community to condemn the kidnapping of Mother Pelagia and her nuns.
Syrian Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that “these nuns devoted their lives to serve the orphans, the needy and the poor and they should be kept at a distance from political disputes.”
Syria’s Relief and Social Affairs Minister, Kinda al-Shammat has called on the “international community” to pressure those countries who support terrorists to release their hostages, including terrorists in Syria.
On December 2, 2013, Foreign and Expatriates Ministry sent two identical letters to UN Security Council chairman and UN Secretary-General, saying that “the Arab Republic is facing a barbarian war launched by extremist takfiri gangs targeting its present and future.” The Ministry went on to report the Mother Pelagia Sayyaf incident in Maaloula.
Metropolitan Philip has called on Obama to take a stand against the terrible kidnappings perpetrated by Syrian rebels
On December 4, 2013, Russia’s Foreign Ministry and the Russian Orthodox Church demanded the release of Mother Pelagia and her nuns. The rights ombudsman for Moscow’s Foreign Ministry pressed the international community to “condemn the incident,” because he believes Christians are increasingly in danger in Syria.
Meanwhile, the United States government has shown reluctance to condemn this atrocious event even though it has been heavily involved in the Syrian situation. The uncomfortable reality is that the United States has sent weapons and training to the very Syrian rebels who have been raping and pillaging Christian communities.
Metropolitan Philip, leader of the Antiochian Archdiocese in the United States, wrote a letter to President Obama and Mrs. Obama. He explained the situation concerning Mother Pelagia, emphasizing that these nuns were “peaceful women do not have arms and do not fight but pray for peace every day and night.” However, the White House remains strangely silent, preferring to portray the Syrian rebels as peace-loving protestors forced into warfare out of a desire for liberty.