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Comments in part from Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land.
“It is a partial release, a kind of house arrest. He can move around in the village but he cannot leave and he must be appear in court to verify the accusation, which is that he allegedly collaborated with the Assad regime. These people are considered terrorists, but they consider themselves a state and they have the structures of a state. So, they have their own courts, which are of course Islamic. For them, this is not considered a kidnapping but an arrest. And they acted as a kind of police in this new state, and they wanted to check the loyalty of this person, or at least make sure that he was not gong to betray them.”
This is good news for the twenty parishioners, who along with Fr. Hanna had been taken by the rebels, linked to al-Qaeda.
“They were almost all released. There are only four or five people who are still waiting to be released. We hope that they too will be soon.”
Fr. Hanna Jallouf, a Syrian, age 62, from the valley of the Orontes River, on the border with Turkey, the same region in which he works as a Franciscan. This land, according to tradition, was crossed and evangelized by St. Paul during his journey to Antioch, where the Franciscans have been present for more than a century with several monasteries. International involvement also made Fr. Hanna’s return to the monastery possible.
“There have been many proposals for action and several requests. Some non-governmental organizations that are linked to Syria and Turkey, which borders them, have also an pretty important role.”
In the monastery of Knayeh, for the past two years, with the arrival of the rebels, the removal of crosses, statues and Christian symbols was imposed on the people. The parish has continued to be in charge of the school, a kindergarten and a small dispensary that is vital for the area, in these years of war in Syria. Together with Fr. Hanna, there are some Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. For now, despite the fact that the situation is worsening, they continue to work alongside the local population.
“There are still three hundred people who live there and we cannot abandon them. We must continue. The situation of Knayeh is the same as the other villages and is perhaps even more complicated in other villages. We are in contact with everyone. There is some sort of coordination between us to see what to do and how to do it. “