Charles Ajalat, an Eastern Orthodox activist from California who helped to start the FOCUS social service agency in the Hill District, is trying to get Congress to apply pressure regarding the kidnapping of two Syrian Orthodox bishops on April 22, 2013.
It’s unclear who is holding them: both the government of Syria and the rebels fighting them have blamed each other. Some accounts claim that Chechen militants who have come to Syria to support the rebels are to blame. Although the kidnapping of Christian clergy for ransom has become common during the civil war, no demand for ransom has been made public. At the time they were abducted the two bishops were returning from a failed attempt to negotiate the release of two priests -- one Orthodox and one Armenian Catholic -- who had been kidnapped nearly three months earlier.
One of the kidnapped prelates, Bishop Paul Yazigi, is Greek Orthodox, while Bishop John Ibrahim is Syriac. Bishop Ibrahim has life-threatening high blood pressure and diabetes, and is said to be in dire need of medication. The case has drawn
strong ecumenical support. Pope Francis has called for their release and on May 11 a large group of Eastern Catholics held a special Mass in Rome to pray for both the captive bishops and the priests they tried to free.