Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Lebanon asks for Qatari help in Maaloula nuns affair

Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon's General Directorate of General Security, has been in Doha (Qatar) for the past two days to secure the release of the Orthodox nuns held hostage by Islamist insurgents who took them from their monastery in Maaloula to Yabroud, further north.

Abbas Ibrahim is also tasked with information gathering with regards to Boulos Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim, respectively the Greek-Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox bishops abducted near Aleppo in April about whom nothing is known at present.

Lebanon is hoping that Qatari mediation can be as effective as it was two months ago, when some Lebanese Shia pilgrims detained at Aazaz (Syria) were released thanks to Qatari and Turkish intervention.

General Ibrahim went to Doha with an official letter from President Michel Sleiman, in which the Lebanese head of state asks for the emirate's good offices on these two very sensitive issues.

Lebanon's security chief also made ​​contact with Qatar-based satellite television channel Al Jazeera to find the source of a video released last week in which the nuns announce their upcoming release.

The video states that the 13 sisters were "detained" (not "abducted", the video notes) and brought to Yabroud "to save them from the bombing." Three other people suffered the same fate.

For now, it is impossible to have more precise information. Telephone communications between Beirut and Syria have been disrupted.

Meanwhile, more and more appeals are being made for the release of the sisters in Syria and Lebanon. 

In Damascus, the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna (John) X celebrated a Mass for their release on Sunday. 

In his homily, he called on "anyone with any connection, direct or indirect," to intercede to obtain the group's release.

"We hope," he added, "that this will happen today, not tomorrow. We urgently call on everyone to accept the logic of dialogue and peace, not violence and weapons."

In Lebanon, the Maronite Patriarch and other Christian associations slammed the abduction and demanded the sisters' release.

Lebanon's Minister for Energy and Water Gebran Bassil appealed to all the movements of peaceful protest. He also called the international reaction to the kidnapping "insufficient".

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