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UPDATE: Syria: Militant Jihadists Kidnap Fr. Hanna Jallouf, and Twenty Christians

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We must raise our voice together: FREE FATHER JALLOUF, FREE OUR CHRISTIAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS!

Sixty two year old Franciscan Father Hanna Jallouf, the beloved pastor of Christian village of Knayeh, located in the valley of the Orontes River near the Turkish border, has been kidnapped! Along with this dear priest, twenty of the Christian faithful were abducted. They were taken by militant Jihadist Islamists who are identified with Islamist terrorist organization Jabhat al-Nusra. This is said to be a branch of al-Qaeda which is operating in Syria. However, the specific group identification is becoming less important. Reliable reports indicate that this group is now seeking affiliation with the Islamic State.The Caliphate is brutal - and it is spreading.

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KNAYEH, Syria (Catholic Online) - (UPDATE: Some reports indicate that Father Hanna Jallouf, the beloved pastor of Christian village of Knayeh, has been freed by the kidnappers and is under some form of house arrest)

I have covered the plight of Christians in Syria for years - and will continue to do so. The reason? They are our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

Don't be idle in the face of genocide. Act now to save your Christian brothers and sisters!

We are called to bear one another's burdens and fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2) We have an obligation in solidarity to stand with them, pray for them, and defend them. Jesus is identified with all who suffer in His Name. We must be so as well.

As we evaluate the various conflicts in the Middle East it is vitally important to be informed by news sources which paint the full picture of what is happening. There is a lot of propaganda in the main stream media. We have leaders trying to imply that the protagonists of these evil acts are not Islamic, while the actors claim to be committing these atrocities because of their commitment to Islam. 

Make no mistake; these militant Jihadist Islamists hate Christians. They are killing us. They are beheading, crucifying, and attempting to subjugate us. They will be satisfied with nothing but our apostasy by denying Jesus Christ and our forcible conversion to their brand of Islam.

I know they are doing this to other religious minorities, and even committing such egregious acts against some other Muslims. I also know that not all who self identify as Muslims are evil. Of course not! Many claim to abhor these actions. I just wish those who do would speak out boldly!

But we must be clear, these particular Jihadist Islamists are focusing their hatred - and their swords -  on Christians.

It is also important to state without equivocation that Christians preceded Muslims in calling Syria their home. They have a right to live there and a Right to practice their faith there. This is a fundamental human right.

Christians must not be forced to leave this ancient and holy land which is their home. They are under and evil assault which worsens by the day. There is a growing Christian genocide occurring in the ancient lands where Christianity and the Church took root - and from which the Gospel went forth to all the Nations. . 

We are living in a new missionary age. There is a persecution of the Christian Church unfolding on a global scale. It has different faces. In the West, where the memory of Christian influence fades under increasing persecution inflicted by rabid secularism, godless materialism and nihilism, it is a form of "soft persecution".

In the East, which now bleeds under the overt persecution from Jihadist Islamists, the challenge we face as a Christian Church grows daily and involves the shedding of blood. It cries out for prayer, solidarity and action!

The Apostle James wrote a letter which bears his name to the early Christians. It is found in the New Testament of the Bible and contains these words:

"What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder".

The English word Martyr is derived from a Greek word which means witness. All Christians are called to bear witness to Jesus Christ - and the saving power of God as revealed in the Christian faith. The Christian Church has also always affirmed that the shedding of one's blood in fidelity to Jesus Christ is the final witness to the Faith.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it this way: "Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude" (CCC #2471 - 2473)

There are famous words attributed to an early Church Father named Tertullian in the Second Century of Church history. They have proven to be true for over two millennia. They cry out their promise in this New Age of Martyrs: "The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church." 

Christians have a two thousand year history in the Middle East.

Syria was the home of many monks, mystics and missionaries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Some of the most beautiful of the Patristic writings were penned by Syrian Saints. The Liturgy and hymnody of the early Church was enriched by the worship of those same wonderful saints. Now, our brethren are shedding their blood precisely because they profess the Christian faith. We Must Not Remain Silent!

Confirmed reports out of Syria should not only inform our urgent prayer and fasting - they should  move us to concerted action!  Christians must not sit idly by.

Sixty two year old Franciscan Father Hanna Jallouf, the beloved pastor of Christian village of Knayeh, located in the valley of the Orontes River near the Turkish border, has been kidnapped! Along with this dear priest, twenty of the Christian faithful were abducted.

They were taken by militant Jihadist Islamists who are identified with Islamist terrorist organization Jabhat al-Nusra. This is said to be a branch of al-Qaeda which is operating in Syria. However, the specific group identification is becoming less important.

Reliable reports indicate that this group is now seeking affiliation with the Islamic State.The Caliphate is brutal - and it is spreading.

Some time back, Father Jallouf gave an interview wherein he addressed the fact that Christians have been in this part of Syria since the time of the Apostle Paul:

"Tradition has it that upon receiving the joyful news that he could convert the Greeks to Christianity, St.Paul traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. There were three roads that connected Apamea to Antioch at the time. One was a military route that led to Aleppo; another ran along the Orontes river and was impossible to take because of flooding and a third route passed behind this hill. St. Paul will have passed through here, evangelising this land. So we are definitely descendants of the first Christians whom the missionary Apostle converted to the faith."

This dedicated Catholic Priest is beloved by the Christian faithful. He is associated with the Custody of the Holy Land, the Franciscans who are charged with caring for the Holy Sites.

In an indirect way, so am I.

I was honored many years ago by being made a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Spulchre of Jersualem.We are charged with defending the Holy Sitesin the Middle East.

I vividly remember when Cardinal Hickey, of blessed memory, knighted me, at the Franciscan Monastery. It was a profoundly spiritual moment.

Even though I knew that the Order was literally charged with the physical maintenance and promotion of the Holy Sites, I had a deep sense of the spiritual implications of the honor, and the responsibility which came along with it. It was about more than a cape.

Those sites stand for the very presence of Christianity in the land where Jesus and His Apostles planted the seed of the Christian Church to which we belong. Those brothers and sisters suffering at the hands of the evil being inflicted upon them, precisely because they are Christians, are our own family!

Now, almost two decades after I was knighted, our brothers and sisters in the ancient lands of the Church are shedding their blood for the ancient but ever new Christian faith. We must fervently pray and fast. AND WE MUST ACT! I will keep my readers abreast on this story because it is OUR story. We are our brother and sisters keepers.

We must raise our voice together to these Evil Jihadists: FREE FATHER JALLOUF, FREE OUR CHRISTIAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS!

Make no mistake, they hate us BECAUSE we are Christians. They hate who we stand for - and they hate who we stand with.

Fr. Hanna Jallouf is our priest too. The twenty parishioners taken with him are our Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ. They are living for the same Lord we serve, only in Syria. This is our struggle! We are accountable for how we respond.

AFP News out of Jerusalem recently reported:

"On the night of October 5th, Father Hanna Jallouf of the Custody of the Holy Land, parish priest at Qunyeh, Syria, was taken by some brigades linked to Jabhat Al-Nusra," a statement from the Custody of the Holy Land said.

Following their capture, an unspecified number of Franciscan nuns had taken refuge with the villagers, it said.

Qunyeh is a village of several hundred people in Idlib province, and lies some eight kilometres (five miles) from the Turkish border.

According to top Franciscan official Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, the 62-year-old priest was seized along with 20 villagers.

"He has been kidnapped," he told AFP in Jerusalem, expressing deep concern over the fate of the priest, a Syrian who has worked in Qunyeh for 12 years after a posting in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

"They are accusing them of being collaborators" with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he said, insisting that this was not true.

"We don't know what to do. We don't know with whom to talk, we're totally unable to get in touch with anyone," added Pizzaballa, the guardian of the Catholic Church's sites in the Holy Land.

According to a source linked to the Franciscan Order in Aleppo, Al-Nusra rebels had forced their way into the convent and "looted everything".

He also said Al-Nusra rebels were "angry with Father Hanna because he refused to give them some of the olives harvested from trees on the convent's land."

Pizzaballa could not confirm reports that the convent had been plundered, saying the claim was being looked into.

Contacted online by AFP, a local Syrian activist said Al-Nusra had been trying to take charge of part of the Franciscan properties in Qunyeh, prompting Father Hanna to make a complaint to a religious court late last week.

Al-Nusra rebels had seized control of many different Christian and Muslim villages in the area in the past few years, he said.

The Franciscans, a religious order within the Catholic Church, have 19 people working across Syria, where the order has operated for 800 years. They have been working in Qunyeh for 125 years, he said.

The Custody of the Holy Land is made up of 285 members of the Franciscan Order from 39 countries.

Al-Nusra Front, which fights alongside rebels battling Assad's regime, is the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda

Don't be idle in the face of genocide. Act now to save your Christian brothers and sisters!

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Deacon Keith Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and six grandchildren, He serves as the Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Stephen, Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, VA. He is also a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate.

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