The story of the Franciscan Iraqi priest Dhiya Azziz – the parish priest of the Syrian village of Yacoubieh taken away on Saturday, July 4 by the militiamen of jihadist organizations that control the region – remains marked by uncertainty, even among members of the parish community and there is concern among the confreres of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land about his fate but there is also hope of a rapid release.
Father Dhiya – reports the statement issued by the Custody – was taken away by the Brigade of militiamen who said they had to take him to a short meeting with the Emir who exercise authority in the region, currently subjected to the rule of Al-Nusra Front, Syrian arm of al-Qaida. Later, two militants were sent to the parish to get the friar’s medication, who suffers from diabetes and other health problems. This detail – emphasize local sources contacted by Agenzia Fides – bodes well, because it confirms that Dhiya father is alive and will be able to deal with his health problems. What arouses perplexity is the total lack of information about why he was taken away.
Father Dhiya Azziz, from Iraq, had voluntarily chosen to go to serve the Latin parish of Yacoubieh, in Idlib province two years ago, in a district for a long time in the hands of the jihadist groups who in the area gave life to also administrative and judicial institutions in charge of managing the new political Islamist “order”. While the priests and religious of other Churches and Christian communities left the area, in Yacoubieh and the nearby village of Knayeh two parishes entrusted to the Franciscans remained open, who continue to provide pastoral care for local communities, reduced to a few hundred faithful.
Fr. Dhiya has always tried to keep out of the political and military issues related to the Syrian conflict. He continued to offer his pastoral service to parishioners and to promote initiatives of concrete solidarity also in favor of the many Muslim refugees who arrived in those Christian villages.
Last October even the Franciscan Hanna Jallouf OFM, pastor of the Church of St. Joseph, in the nearby village of Knayeh, had been taken along with some parishioners by jihadists of al-Nusra Front (see Fides 08/10/2014). Fr. Jallouf and then his parishioners, had been released within a few days. Now everyone hopes that Fr. Dhiya can soon return to his parish.
Source: Fides News