A Syrian priest, along with 270 Christian and Muslim hostages kidnapped by Islamic militants earlier this summer in an offensive on the city of Homs, are reportedly alive and hoping that they'll be released after negotiations.
Fides News Agency said that Father Jacques Murad, who belongs to the monastic community of Deir Mar Musa, is still alive, according to local sources, but is being held hostage with groups of Christians and Muslims taken by jihadists in August. The hostages are reported to be "stable and secure," and are waiting as local ecclesial communities are carrying out negotiations through mediators for their possible release.
"The sources contacted by Fides confirm that all the hostages are still in Quaryatayn, and specify that the news on the story of father Murad broadcast in recent days by Lebanese television network Nursat TV did not include any statement regarding the religious person kidnapped, but only reassuring considerations about his fate, expressed by another priest," the report added.
Murad was captured in May by two armed men on motorbikes who arrived at the Mar Elian monastery, before forcing the priest into his car and taking him to an unknown destination.
The monastery has reportedly been hosting hundreds of refugees from the Syrian civil war, including over a hundred children younger than 10. Before he was captured, Murad had been helping provide basic necessities for the refugees.
It was not made clear which groups the jihadists belong to, though the country has been torn apart by clashes between government forces and various Islamic rebel groups seeking to take power.
Christians have been targeted especially heavily by the Islamic State terror group, which has captured significant territory in Syria, and has forced believers to agree to live under strict conditions or be driven out of the captured cities.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights obtained a copy of a document Christians in the captured town of al-Quaryatayn are being forced to sign, which lists 11 stipulations that must be followed.
The contract prohibits: the establishment of churches, the displaying of crosses, making Muslims hear Christian prayers or rituals of worship, the hiding of spies, offending Islamic religious beliefs, the carrying of weapons, the sale of pork or wine to Muslims, and failing to dress modestly.