Church leaders urge Egyptian troops to rescue Sinai hostages
“Dramatic changes” in the Sinai peninsula region offer Egypt’s government a chance to rescue trafficking and torture victims, an assembly of Middle Eastern Catholic leaders said Aug. 9.
“Due to the deployment of Egyptian troops in Sinai following the recent violence on the Israeli-Egyptian border, a window of opportunity opens up,” the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land said in a communique.
The opportunity “must be used to put an end to the ongoing, festering sore of the prison and torture camps in Sinai,” the bishops and priests wrote, renewing their March 2012 appeal which echoed the concerns of Pope Benedict XVI about criminals’ treatment of migrants in the region.
Egypt deployed troops in the Sinai peninsula after militants killed at least 16 soldiers at a checkpoint on Aug. 5. The attackers took control of an armored vehicle and crossed into Israel, where six of them were killed in an airstrike.
Reinforcement were sent from Egypt on Thursday, as gunmen attacked a police station on the peninsula. President Mohammed Morsi said on Sunday that Egypt “will control all parts of Sinai,” where Al-Qaeda-inspired militants are looking to set up a strictly Islamic state.
Twenty regional Catholic leaders – including Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour, and Holy Land Custos Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa – urged the Egyptian soldiers to put an end to another crisis that has caused immense suffering near the border.
“We, the heads of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, continue to call out to the world in our deep concern for the fate of the African asylum seekers who have been kidnapped as they pass through Sinai,” the Holy Land Church officials stated in Thursday’s message. [More]