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Jesuit martyr for peace

Dutch Jesuit, Fr Frans van der Lugt, who was renowned for his work on behalf of the citizens in the beseiged Syrian city of Homs, was shot dead earlier this week. According to Jan Stuyt SJ of the Dutch Curia, “A man came into his house, took him outside and shot him twice in the head.” He had been living in Syria since 1966 and had repeatedly refused to leave.

IJN (Irish Jesuit News) on 12 February featured a story (A voice crying in the wilderness) about Dutch Jesuit Frans van der Lugt; we quoted the Economist among other sources, and concluded: “The world is compelled to pay attention when a man who could easily be living in comfortable Dutch retirement tells the world that he and the people around him (in the besieged Syrian city of Homs) are sinking in a bed of pain.” Today Frans’s pain is over.

We have just been informed by our companions on the spot, that last Monday morning at about 8 am, armed men broke into the Jesuit residence in Homs and abducted Father Frans van der Lugt, beat him, tied him to a chair, and then executed him by two bullets to the head, in front of the Jesuit residence in Homs.

Frans was born in the Netherlands in 1938 and entered the Society of Jesus in 1959. He was active in Syria for fifty years, working in education and in a project for handicapped people. Since the beginning of the civil war he wanted to stay with the local population (Christians and Muslims) in the centre of Homs as a man of peace. Some weeks ago he turned down the offer of rescue from Homs. He had no illusions about the hazards of his position, and he has paid the price for his devotion to reconciliation.

May the Lord welcome him and support our companions who give themselves fully to the service of all the victims of violence.