Four employees of the Christian NGO SOS Chrétiens d’Orient went missing in Baghdad, Iraq, on Monday, 20th January, after travelling by car to an appointment in the late afternoon. Several attempts were made on Tuesday to contact them, but were not successful. On Wednesday, it was clear that they had disappeared and therefore the French authorities were immediately alerted. The French and Iraqi authorities are coordinating an ongoing investigation to find them.
These employees were going to Baghdad to carry out various administrative tasks: to renew their visas, to register the association with the Iraqi authorities and to monitor the association’s operations in Iraq, including the opening of a new school.
For security reasons and in agreement with the authorities, it is not possible to disclose their identities. To date, no ransom demand has been received, and there is no information on the fate of our four friends and collaborators.
SOS Chrétiens d’Orient notes that this mission was organized in full coordination with the French consular authorities in Iraq. Their employees stayed in a hotel located in an area that regularly receives international staff and followed a security protocol adapted to the region. These procedures include: plans that are regularly audited by independent experts, staff training, active security intelligence, and a support team in Paris that can be mobilized at any time. The update of our security procedures is ongoing and will be adapted to new threats.
SOS Chrétiens d’Orient is a French NGO based in Paris which main task is helping Christians communities in the Middle East. Founded in 2013 by Charles de Meyer and Benjamin Blanchard after hearing the news that jihadists had taken the village of Maaloula in Syria. They decided to go to Syria and brought four tons of medicines, clothes and toys with them to the various communities of Damascus. Since then, the NGO has run several reconstruction projects for churches and schools and provides the entire financing needed to build medical cabins.