An Armenian-Catholic archbishop has spoken out about the murder of a priest of his Church which ISIS (Daesh) claimed responsibility for.
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need about the attack that killed Armenian-Catholic priest Father Hovsep Hanna Bedoyan on Monday (11th November), Armenian-Catholic Archbishop Boutros Marayati of Aleppo said: “The war in Syria is not yet over. We continue to feel the presence of ISIS”.
ISIS took responsibility for the killing just hours after the murder.
Father Bedoyan was travelling to Deir Ezzor with his father Ibrahim Hanna Bedoyan, a deacon, and a layman to monitor repair work on the Armenian-Catholic Church of the Martyrs when they were attacked.
Archbishop Marayati said: “We are trying to rebuild the church and the houses of the Christians who used to live there, so that they can return to the city.”
Speaking about the murders, he said: “Shortly before they arrived at Dei Ezzor, two armed men on a motorcycle overtook their car and opened fire.
“The father of the priest was killed instantly, while Father Hovsep Hanna died later, outside the hospital in Hassake.”
The deacon was wounded while the fourth person, a layman, was able to escape.
An investigation into the shooting is still ongoing.
Archbishop Marayati said: “So far we don’t know who killed him, although it appears that ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.
“What we do know is that Father Hovsep was dressed in his priestly attire and was consequently recognisable as a priest, in addition to the fact that his car was clearly marked, in large letters, with the words ‘Armenian Catholic Church’.
“Hence it is entirely plausible that Father Hovsep was murdered because he was a priest and because of his efforts to re-establish the Christian presence in Deir Ezzor.”
Archbishop Marayati described how Deir Ezzor is a vital city for Armenian Christians.
He said: “This is a very important town for us because it is here that many of our martyrs were killed as they fled the Turkish genocide of 1915.
“Today there are no Armenian Catholics left there, but undoubtedly the Turks don’t want us to return because our presence would be a reminder of the Armenian genocide.”
The funeral of Father Bedoyan and his father took place yesterday (Tuesday, 12th November) at St Joseph’s Church, Qamishli at noon local time.
According to the archbishop, the city is experiencing tension because of ongoing clashes between Turkish and Kurdish forces.
He said: “The situation is chaotic. There are Turks, Kurds, Americans, Russians. Just yesterday there were three explosions.
“Christians are afraid – with every new outbreak of violence, many families are deciding to emigrate.
“Before the war, there were 5,000 Armenian Catholics and five churches in Qamishli. Today, they are just 2,000, and only two churches remain open.”
Archbishop Marayati appealed to the international community through ACN, saying: “All we are asking is that this war should end, but that will not be possible if people continue to help the terrorists and send arms to Syria.”
He added: “I beg you to pray for us and for our people, because at present we are living through extremely difficult times.”
“Christians around the world face discrimination, oppression and persecution for their faithfulness to Christ. Please take the time to find out more so that you can be a voice for them. Your kind gift and your prayers will also help support thousands of ACN projects around the world. Thank you.”