The parents of an American journalist missing in Syria have a new message for his captors: "Let us be a whole family again."
In a statement published Thursday on the McClatchy Newspapers website, Austin Tice's parents say he went to Syria to share the stories of the country's people.
"We urge you, whoever you are: Let Austin come home for Christmas," Marc and Debra Tice wrote. "Let us hug him, laugh and cry with him, love him in person."
Austin Tice, who was working as a freelancer for McClatchy and other news outlets, last contacted his family on August 13 while in Syria reporting on the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's government. He was reportedly preparing to leave Syria for Lebanon when he went missing, according to his family.
In Thursday's statement, Marc and Debra Tice describe their son as someone who has "a special affinity for the people of the Middle East."
"He is especially attracted to your tradition of hospitality," the statement said. "He deeply connects with your intense loyalty to family, faith and ideals."
The U.S. State Department has said they believe Tice was detained by Syrian officials in August as he was preparing to leave the country. He had smuggled himself into the country to report on the uprising.
In November, Marc Tice told reporters that the Syrian government had told his family that it doesn't know where their son is.
In October, a shaky video surfaced on YouTube showing a man believed to be Tice surrounded by armed men walking him up a hill.
State Department officials have questioned the veracity of the video, which purports to show Tice in the custody of rebels fighting the Syrian government.
Earlier this month, Tice's parents told CNN they do not want to speculate about who is holding him; they just want their son back home.
Austin is the oldest of the couple's seven children.
"He likes to know what's going on in the world," Debra Tice said earlier this month, and he was frustrated by the lack firsthand reporting from Syria's civil war.
She said her son had reassured her that it was worth it to travel to Syria.
"I'm someone that can go," he told her. "I can face that danger because this story is important.'"