Kidnapped Syrian bishops still missing, despite reports

Horrible news out of Syria, where two Orthodox bishops were kidnapped.  There hasn’t been enough coverage of this kidnapping and to say the coverage that’s out there is weak is an understatement. Take this story from Reuters (but don’t believe it, as I’ll explain later):

Two kidnapped Syrian bishops freed: church official

Kidnappers freed two Syrian bishops on Tuesday who had been abducted in the northern city of Aleppo, a church official said, but the identities of their kidnappers remained uncertain.

“The two are on their way to the patriarchy in Aleppo,” Bishop Tony Yazigi told Reuters in the capital Damascus.

Yazigi, a relative of one of the kidnapped bishops, did not say who was behind the kidnapping of Greek Orthodox archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim.

The only problems being that there is no Bishop Tony Yazigi and there was no release of the bishops.

But other than that, great story! The same source was used by the BBC and The Guardian, though those outlets later explained that there were “conflicting” reports. Reuters has retained the story and the New York Times still has its Reuters story on its web site. A subsequent story did mention contradictory reports.

The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America responds:

Release Reports False

There have appeared many reports in both the Eastern and Western press that the two hierarchs who were abducted yesterdayby terrorists in Syria, Metropolitan Boulos Yazge, Antiochian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim, Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo, have been released. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip spoke by phone this morning to His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East (pictured), who said that these reports are false, and that the release of these two hierarchs has NOT taken place.

We ask you to continue to pray for their safety, and eventual release.

A search of the news shows that the error is being repeated all over the place. But the Christian Science Monitor has a story:

Kidnapped Syrian bishops still missing, despite reports otherwise 

The churches of two prominent Syrian Orthodox bishops reportedly kidnapped in northern Syria were unable to verify a claim that the pair had been released by their armed rebel captors.

A review of that story indicates that pretty much every news outlet could use better sources in Syria! If Syrian sources are lacking, phone calls to related orthodox churches are in order. What a difficult story to report when dealing with source problems. The CSM handles it well, though, simply explaining what those conflicting reports are and where the information came from and is coming from.

But it really is important to get this story right. As one of the readers who notified us of the problems said:

This is a serious matter, as these false reports reduce the amount of international exposure of the event and the resulting political pressure– something necessary for the eventual safe return of the bishops.


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