Hundreds are expected to gather Friday evening in a Modesto church to pray for the safe return of Assyrian Christians taken hostage this week by Islamic State militants in northeast Syria.
The vigil starts at 7:30 p.m. at St. Zaia Cathedral, 1457 Mable Ave. The cathedral is a parish of the Assyrian Church of the East, Diocese of California. The vigil is open to the public.
“We are praying for the release of those who have been captured and kidnapped, not just in Syria but in Iraq,” said the Rev. Genard Lazar with St. Zaia Cathedral. Lazar said they also will ask for the United States and the rest of the international community to act quickly to free the hostages.
The cathedral started planning the vigil Monday, after the media reported that Islamic State militants had taken Assyrian Christians hostage. The hostages include former Modesto resident Hanno Amo.
Amo, 59, left Modesto about two years ago and went to Syria with the hope of helping his son and his son’s family come to America. Amo has a wife and other family members in Modesto.
“We don’t know anything,” said Amo’s brother-in-law Romel David on Thursday. “We are just waiting. That’s all we can do.”
CNN reported Thursday that the Islamic State has taken more than 250 hostages this week from Assyrian villages in northeast Syria. The Islamic State has engaged in the mass killings of religious minorities and others in the Arab world.
Stanislaus County has one of the United States’ largest Assyrian communities, estimated at about 20,000.