Deep inside Syria, a bishop worked secretly to save the lives of more than 200 members of his flock from the ISIS terrorist group.
According to a report covered by ISNA, the Assyrian Christians were seized from the Khabur River valley in northern Syria, among the last holdouts of a minority that had been chased across the Mideast for generations.
On Feb. 23, 2015, ISIS fighters attacked 35 Christian towns simultaneously, sweeping up scores of people.
It took more than a year, and videotaped killings of three captives, before all the rest were freed.
Paying ransoms is illegal in the United States and most of the West, and the idea of giving money to the ISIS group is morally fraught, even for those who saw no alternative.
“You look at it from the moral side and I get it. If we give them money we’re just feeding into it, and they’re going to kill using that money,” said Aneki Nissan, who helped raise funds in Canada. But “to us, we’re such a small minority that we have to help each other.”
The Khabur families trace their heritage to the earliest days of Christianity. To this day, they speak a dialect of Aramaic, believed to be the native language of Jesus.
How much was ultimately paid remains a mystery. The bishop, the only person with a full accounting, declined to speak to The Associated Press.