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Pray for Fr. Micheal and all Syrian Christians

April 16, 2013


Kidnapped, lost and forgotten: On the 9th of February 2013, 27-year-old Father Michael Kayal from Aleppo, Syria, was abducted by Islamic extremist rebels. Two months later he is still missing, yet the world remains silent.

Monsignor Georges Dankaye, Rector of the Armenian College, Rome, and Procurator of the Armenian Catholic Church under the Holy See, reveals to us the facts about the kidnapping of Fr. Michael and about the terrible reality in which Syrian Christians are living. This reality is one of bloodshed, torture and inhumanity at an unthinkable level.

“Fr. Michael was my student in seminary for two years in Aleppo. He was very kind and intelligent,” recounts Dankaye, smiling sorrowfully. “He loved sport and music, and to sing, especially liturgical songs. He was always ready to help.”

The two were also over a year together in the Armenian College in Rome, where Michael studied Canon Law at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, after which he was ordained a priest on the 2nd of November 2011.

By the time Fr. Michael returned to Syria, the uprising had already begun and violence swept through the land, making every movement one of uncertainty for the young priest. But his “spirit, enthusiasm and zeal” captured the hearts of both his parish priest and parishioners. As the situation worsened, and refugees flooded in from the peripheries of Aleppo, Fr. Michael along with three other young priests started up a mission with the migrants. “They went every day to the schools where the Muslim families were taking refuge and took them food to eat, providing both lunch and dinner, and then they brought other aid, and doctors as well.”

It seems that Fr. Michael was walking in the steps of the saints – a man of servitude and compassion: “I remember one of his phone calls to me; he said, ‘what I can always do is serve, and nothing can be greater than this,” recalls Dankaye.

On the 9th of February, Fr. Michael set out from Aleppo. He was scheduled to visit Rome, stopping first in a small city on the way to Beirut before arriving in Italy on the 12th of February. He had not long been travelling when at one of the many blockades that plague the Syrian roads a band of rebels stormed the bus.  “There were three priests aboard, two in clerics and one Salesian dressed in plain clothes. They saw the two priests dressed in clerics and made them get down; to the third they said nothing.”

“Half an hour later they had phoned his brother, saying, ‘we’ll be in contact soon to come to an agreement.’” Dankaye continues, “From that moment on the only contact was with his brother, never with the Church itself; then his brother spoke to the bishop … and it seems that the bishop informed the government.” Fr. Michael’s family revealed that they made a request for one million Syrian lire and for the liberation of 15 prisoners. However, after having asked the group which prisoners they wanted releasing, the terrorists renounced the request, asking only for the money. “This makes us think that it is a small armed group rather than the Syrian Liberation Front … because the liberation of 15 prisoners would be considered as a good offer.”  He explains that “there are about 2000 of these little groups. They don’t organise or coordinate among one another; each group has their own objectives, their own ideals.” Their disorganisation became apparent when, after the family had agreed to pay the ransom, the group made no further attempt at claiming the ransom money.

So what is the situation now for Fr. Michael? Is he still alive? Dankaye states that “the only information we have is from one phone call on the 20th of February; they let him talk to his mother for less than half a minute, where he said, ‘Mum, I’m OK, but pray for me.’ Then from that date on, there has been no more contact. We don’t know anything. It remains a mystery.”

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