There is still no solid news of the two metropolitan archbishops of Aleppo who were abducted on 22 April, the Syrian Orthodox metropolitan Mor Grigorios Yuhanna Ibrahim and the Greek Orthodox metropolitan Boulos Yaziji, but there are more rumors. Al-Monitor yesterday published a long article on the subject translating and expanding an Arabic article published on 13 August by the Lebanese newspaper al-Safir (for an English translation of the original al-Safir article, see the blog Notes on Arab Orthodoxy). The al-Monitor article especially is very detailed, but it is not at all clear what the sources of these details are. The Lebanese Daily Star also published an article disputing most of those details and suggesting other ones.
If the play-by-play account of the abduction of the bishops by Chechen jihadis working for Abu Omar al-Shishani has any validity, it must have ultimately come from Fu’ad Eliya, the only passenger of the vehicle not abducted or killed, but it is not clear whether the al-Monitor journalist interviewed Eliya. The detailed account is not in the al-Safir article, and the details disagree with what Hurriyet reported second-hand from Eliya back in May. Particularly curious is the al-Monitor article’s unsourced reference to “the small message written in Greek and sent by Bishop Yazigi to a friend in Greece and to his brother Yohanna. The message, written in Greek, said, ‘We are being held by al-Qaeda.'” Where did that information come from? In light of the obscurity of the information’s provenance, these details must be regarded as unreliable.
Particularly interesting to me was the last portion of the al-Monitor article, which quoted various people who have made pronouncements in the past about the fate of the bishops, including George Sabra, all saying that there is no real knowledge about their fate. That still seems to be the end of it.
For those feeling that the saga of the kidnapped bishops has dragged on with no real resolution, that is just a microcosm of the Syrian Civil War in total. Meanwhile, although we still hope the victims will be able to say with Mark Twain, “the report of my death was an exaggeration,” that seems decreasingly likely.