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Christian clergy visit family of Muslim pilot captured by ISIS

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem in Bethlehem (CNS)

Christian clergy led by the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem have visited the family of the Muslim Jordanian pilot captured by ISIS and expressed their support.

Lt Muath Kasasbeh, 26, became the first soldier serving with the US-led coalition battling ISIS to be held by the militants after his plane crashed on Christmas Eve in north-eastern Syria.

“Since that time, our church bells have rung, and prayers have been uttered urging for the freedom for our brother hero, and for his safe return,” Patriarch Twal told Mr Kasasbeh’s father, Safi, on January 3, the commemoration of the birthday of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

“Despite the wrenching agony caused by his capture, Muath has brought Jordanians together and made them feel the taste of national unity,” added the Jordanian-born patriarch.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and ordinary Jordanians have traveled to this southern impoverished village to show their solidarity with the Kasasbeh family, who have pleaded with ISIS forces to not harm Muath.

“My message to them on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad is to treat my son well and consider him a guest. I hope that he will be released soon,” said Safi Kasasbeh.

Jawdat Kasasbeh told Catholic News Service that serious negotiations are taking place for his brother’s release. However, he cautioned that one of the key demands is for Jordan to leave the international coalition fighting ISIS. Jordan has reaffirmed its commitment to fighting terrorism, but some citizens have expressed their unhappiness over the kingdom’s public involvement in the military coalition.

Jordan has threatened ISIS with “grave consequences,” if the pilot is harmed. Meanwhile, it has halted its combat missions as part of the international coalition over Syrian territory.

Several ISIS-affiliated Twitter accounts have asked followers to suggest ways of killing Muath Kasasbeh.

Unconfirmed reports said US Special Forces made two hostage rescue attempts on January 1. The Jordanian was reportedly one of several captives who would have been saved had the rescue mission not been abandoned in Syria.

Father Rifat Bader of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media in the Jordanian capital, Amman, said prayers during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays focused on Mr Kasasbeh’s safety and return home as well as for officials to be granted wisdom and patience to resolve the incident and avoid escalation.

The delegation accompanying Patriarch Twal included representatives from the Latin Patriarchate, which includes Jordan; various Orthodox denominations; the apostolic nunciature in Amman; Chaldean Catholics; and the Lutheran Church.