Assyrian Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, ordinary of the Syrian Catholic Archieparchy in Hassaké-Nisibis, has spoken out against the kidnapping of more than 260 Assyrian Christians and blamed the U.S. and its Western allies for triggering conflicts that have destabilized the region and prompted ISIS to carry out such attacks.
"With their disastrous policies — mainly the French and the U.S., with their regional allies, have favored in fact the Daesh (ISIS) escalation," Hindo told Fides News Agency.
"Now they persevere in error, commit strategic, grotesque mistakes such as the announcement of the 'spring campaign' to liberate Mosul and insist on interfering with irrelevant interventions, instead of recognizing that their guaranteed support to jihadist groups has led us to this chaos and has destroyed Syria, making us regress 200 years."
The Archbishop refers to revelations made by the U.S. that in the summer of 2015 it is going to be launching an operation along with Iraqi forces to retake the city of Mosul, the second largest city in the country. Mosul was one of the first major cities to fall under ISIS control when the terror group began its advance in 2014.
Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of the military's Central Command, told The Wall Street Journal in January: "If we did things alone or with some of the other allies on the ground, it could move faster," he said. "But the Iraqis have to do this themselves."
The U.S. and its allies have hit a number of ISIS targets across Iraq and Syria with airstrikes, but have focused on arming and supporting local ground troop forces instead of sending any of their own.
ISIS has continued to gain ground, however, and has often targeted Christians and other religious minority groups in its aggression. Last week, it released a video depicting the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians, while earlier this week it kidnapped an estimated 262 Assyrian Christians following an attack on villages in the northeastern Jazeera province in Syria.
The archbishop confirmed the news and said: "The jihadists have taken full control of the villages on the western shore of Khabur, while yesterday afternoon, Feb. 24, all the inhabitants of 22 villages scattered along the eastern shore were evacuated and more than a thousand Christian Assyrian and Chaldean families fled to the major centers of Hassaké, Qamishli, Dirbesiye and Ras al-Ayn."
The terror group's raid on the villages caused the death of at least four Christians who had been fighting for the Assyrian milita, Fides reported.
Osama Edward, founder of the Assyrian Human Rights Network, shared fears that the Assyrians kidnapped by ISIS might be facing the same fate as the beheaded Copts.
"Maybe they are facing the same destiny. That's why we call on all over the world, like the U.S., Europe, coalition forces — protect Assyrians, save Assyrians in Syria," Edward said in an interview on Wednesday.
"They are facing death, people are unarmed, they are peaceful. And they need help, they are just left alone — no one's protecting them."
The Vice President of the Assyrian Church in Lebanon, Father Yatroun Colliana, has said that Christians in the region are under great threat, and can only "look to God" to protect them.
"ISIS terrorists carried out this attack against these Assyrian villages, and the number of our people still there in the area is somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 people," Colliana told the Lebanese Daily An-Nahar.
"The rest fled to Lebanon, or Iraq or other countries. At the very least, we know that our families face great dangers, and they are now threatened with death, or kidnapping or displacement."
Colliana also pleaded for more international help, in particular for Iraq to open up its borders and allow the fleeing people to escape from the jihadists.
"The problem is that this danger still threatens our people, meanwhile the world stands by silently watching. We are asking Iraqi officials to open up the borders, at least to let women and children escape," he said.