Moscow, December 7, 2016
More than 200 abducted Assyrian Christians taken hostage by ISIS in February 2015 were saved by a Syrian priest who managed to raise their ransom money, reports RIA-Novosti.
Simultaneous militant attacks in thirty-five Christian settlements on February 23, 2015 resulted in the abduction of 226 people, one of the largest in the history of the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts.
The terrorists announced that they would free seventeen of the captives if one of them would deliver a note to the Syrian bishop of El-Hasaka, Mar Afram Athneil, demanding $50,000 for each captive. Otherwise they would begin executing.
To give money to ISIS was a morally ambiguous decision, and paying ransoms is illegal in America and most of the West, but in the end, in three days the bishop had agreed to the terrorists’ demands, for the sake of saving lives.
“You look at it from the moral side and I get it. If we give them money we're just feeding into it, and they're going to kill using that money … to us, we're such a small minority that we have to help each other,” said Aneki Nissan, who helped raise funds in Canada, reports The Independent.
Priest Abdo Marz, whose daughter was among the hostages, agreed to take up the task of raising the necessary funds. The hostages’ story spread throughout social networks, and two women were freed on May 26, one man on June 16, and twenty-two more on August 11.
Fundraising really took off after the publication of a video in September 2015 in which three of the hostages were executed by the inhumane militants. Money began to pour in from around the world.
Hostage releases took place every few weeks beginning in November. Finally, on February 22, 2016, the final forty-three hostages were released, their names being sent to the bishop.
How much was finally paid remains known to none but the bishop, who is refusing to leave Syria until the safety of his flock is ensured.