Aid workers kidnapped in Iraq released

Cross blessing in Bakhdida May 2 2017 Credit SOS Chretiens Orient CNA Syrian Catholic Archbishop Youhanna Boutros Moshe of Mosul blesses a newly-erected cross in Bakhdida, Iraq, May 2, 2017. Photo courtesy SOS Chrétiens d'Orient.

Four men working in Iraq for the French humanitarian organization SOS Chrétiens d'Orient who went missing in Baghdad in January have been released by their kidnappers, the French president announced Thursday.

Emmanuel Macron announced March 26 that he "welcomes the release of our three nationals Antoine Brochon, Julien Dittmar, Alexandre Goodarzy and Iraqi Tariq Mattoka."

The men disappeared Jan. 20 after they made a trip to an appointment by car. SOS Chrétiens d'Orient tried to contact them the following day, unsuccessfully.

The missing employees had gone to Baghdad "to renew their visas and the registration of association with the Iraqi authorities and to monitor the association's operations" in the country.

Macron's office said it had made "every effort" to secure their release, and he expressed "gratitude to the Iraqi authorities for their co-operation."

SOS Chrétiens d'Orient said last week that they had received no ransom demand, and no group had claimed responsibility for the abduction.

The organization works to support Eastern Christians with humanitarian material aid; it has permanent missions in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt.

Christians in Iraq have suffered persecution in recent years, especially during the invasion of the Islamic State.

Prior to the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003, there were about 1.5 million Iraqi Christians. Today, that number is believed to be fewer than 500,000.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.