Two Syrian Christian archbishops have reportedly been freed after being kidnapped at gunpoint outside their home in Aleppo a day earlier, Al Jazeera reported.
Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim, head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Aleppo, and Bishop Boulos Yaziji, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Aleppo, the largest Christian denomination in Syria, were kidnapped after their driver was killed. The two Christian leaders were reportedly on a humanitarian mission at the time.
It is unclear who was behind the abduction. The rebels and the Syrian government blamed each other.
L’Oeuvre d’Orient, a Christian humanitarian and advocacy group that is active in Syria, also confirmed the archbishops’ release in a statement.
“While L’Oeuvre d’Orient rejoices at the news of their release, it deplores the murder of the driver,” the advocacy group said in a statement.
But despite the some reports of the archbishops being freed, the New York Times reported that the main Syrian rebel group, National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, said the archbishops are still being held.
Syrian Christians, who comprise 10 percent of Syria’s estimated population of 22 million, have been put into a difficult situation by the civil war. On one hand, many support the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But at the same time, under Assad they were a protected minority. Many Christians fear that if Assad is overthrown and replaced by Islamists, they will face greater persecution.