The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that Islamist Rebels broke into St. Thecla Orthodox Convent in Maaloula, 60km north of Damascus, taking hostage, the Mother Superior, Pelagia Sayyaf, along with a number of nuns. This break-in was accompanied by acts of vandalism around the convent and in the town’s nearby areas, according to SANA. Rebels attacked the locals, targeting them with sniper fire. Government sources also claim that the terrorists destroyed the convent after barraging its guards.
It was reported that before the latest outbreak of violence in the city, every nun under the age of sixty and the girls from the orphanage left the convent and moved to a safer location. However, Mother Superior and the older nuns chose to stay and there is no certain information of their whereabouts.
The Syrian Relief and Social Affairs Minister, Kinda al-Shammat, expressed his concern over the events and made a call towards the international community to force terrorists, via pressuring the countries supporting them, release the hostages and the people who were kidnapped by them in Syria.
Fighting between the terrorists on one side and the government on the other has escalated during the past few weeks. The National Observatory for Human Rights in Syria confirmed that Maaloula is under the rebels’ control but did not mention anything about the hostage taking of the nuns.
This is not the first time Maaloula suffered acts of pure violence. Last September, a jihadist rebel group, called the Al-Nusra Front invaded the town and attacked Christian homes and churches. About 40 nuns and orphans of St. Thecla’s found shelter in the convent back then.
We must also mention that Maaloula is one of the last places where Aramaic is still used. Aramaic was the language of Jesus.
Greek Orthodox Patriarch John Yazigi called for the release of the Maaloula nuns. “We appeal to the seed of conscience that God planted in all humans, including the kidnappers, to release our sisters safely,” Yazigi said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“We call upon the international community and world governments to (help secure the) release the nuns of Mar Takla Convent and the orphans who are being held since yesterday,” he added. The statement did not say how many nuns were abducted.
Nabhan told The Associated Press that the Maaloula convent’s mother superior, Pelagia Sayaf, called her late Monday from Yabroud and said they were all “fine and safe.”