One Assyrian Christian bishop is being praised as a hero for his role in saving over 200 Assyrian Christians from the Islamic State.
The Associated Press published a gripping story about Bishop Mar Afram Athneil who took it upon himself to raise enough money for the ransom of over 200 Assyrian Christians who had been captured by the terrorist group.
ChristianToday.com reports that the 226 Christians were taken hostage after the Islamic State attacked their village in the Khabur River valley on February 23, 2015.
"There was no way you could resist," testified one of the victims, Abdo Mazra.
After kidnapping the Christians, the Islamic State sent a ransom note to Bishop Athneil. The message demanded the Assyrian community to pay nearly $11 million for the release of the Christians.
Athneil debated what to do. He desperately wanted to save the captives, but he also didn’t want to give ransom money to the terrorists--a practice which is highly controversial and even prohibited in some countries like the U.S.
Ultimately, however, Athneil decided he needed to do whatever it took to save the captives, so he began a campaign to raise the funds.
Athneil appealed to Christians around the world to help--and they responded.
Canadian Assyrians raised around $100,000. In Germany, an Assyrian entrepreneur raised awareness of the cause.
"Everyone contributed," said Charli Kanoun. "The church opened an account in Irbil, Iraq, and announced it on the internet so everyone can donate."
Social media also helped spread the message.
Then bad news came. ISIS released a video showing the executions of three of the captives.
"When that happened, everybody went crazy and money started flying in from all over," said Sargon Saadi, a Syrian-born filmmaker who had attempted to find out what happened to the hostages. "Churches, Assyrians, non-Assyrians, just donating to the churches and funnelling it to the bishop."
Incredibly, Athneil and all those around the world who helped, were able to raise the necessary funds without any help from government or politicians.
In November 2015, 37 hostages were freed. After that, the floodgates were open, and more captives continued to be released until, on February 22, 2016, the last 43 hostages were freed.
Athneil, who is the force behind this victorious story, remains shrouded in mystery, as GetReligion.org notes. But one thing is for sure--he is committed to his faith and his people.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: December 8, 2016