Bab Baghdad, Raqqa (Syria)

Bab Baghdad, Raqqa (Syria)

“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” George Eliot, Middlemarch

Wednesday, the 29th January 2014, marks 180 days in captivity for Father Paolo dall’Oglio, the Jesuit priest, peace activist and long-time resident of the Syrian hinterland. In July of 2013 Father Paolo defied the wishes of the Jesuit community in Rome, where he lived briefly in exile, and crossed back into Syria via the northern border with Turkey. He proceeded to Raqqa, a town previously overrun by Al-Qaida affiliates ISIS: an acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham. ISIS  governed the region from the Euphrates to the Iraqi border and it was these Islamists who were responsible for priest’s detention. This occurred at a time when Paolo had risked his own well-being and attempted to negotiate between the warring factions in a seemingly intractable conflict.

Paolo is just one of several individuals who share the same fate. On the 3rd of January this year five members of Medecins Sans Frontieres were reportedly kidnapped. This is in addition to the seven aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Earlier, two Metropolitan (Bishop) Boulos Yazigi, of the Greek Orthodox Church in Aleppo and Mar Gregorios Yohana Ibrahim (of the Syrian Orthodox Church) were also abducted. Journalists have similarly been targeted with Foreign Policy citing at least 30 cases of Western reporters held in Syria.

Tomorrow the Friends of the al-Khalil community will remember those kidnapped with prayers and gatherings in Europe and the Middle East. (Paris – 6:30 pm, “Terrace of  Human Rights”, Trocadero; Sulaymaniah, Iraqi Kurdistan – 5:30 pm in Our Virgin Mary Monastery; Brussels – 6.30 pm La Viale and gathering at 8.30, Place du Luxembourg). Other locations are to be confirmed. Further information is available upon request.

Adam Blitz is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, London and a former Fulbright scholar. The views expressed in the article are those of the author alone. Any errors or omissions are similarly those of the author. Adam.blitz@columnist.com @blitz_adam on Twitter