Baku -- Russia’s Foreign Ministry and the Russian Orthodox Church have demanded the release of a group of nuns reportedly captured by Islamist rebels at an ancient convent in Syria. The nuns were taken away by armed men who broke into the Greek Orthodox convent of St Thecla on Monday in the village of Maaloula, some 50 kilometers from the Syrian capital Damascus.
Konstantin Dolgov, the rights ombudsman at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, urged the international community and rights organizations to condemn the incident, which has increased fears over the safety of Christians living in Syria.
“We call on those who kidnapped the nuns to free them immediately safe and sound,” Dolgov wrote on his Twitter account Wednesday.
The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church also condemned the “cynical act of extremists” in a statement Wednesday and said that it was praying for the safe release of the nuns.
Syria’s minority Christian communities have been a frequent target of extremist Islamist insurgents among rebel groups that have been fighting a civil war for almost three years against the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Two bishops and a priest have previously been kidnapped by rebels, but this is the first incident involving nuns.