Today in the Jesuit monastery in Homs Syria, a masked gunman has opened fire on a well-known priest, the 75 years old Dutch Father Frans Van Der Lugt.
Motives for the attack were not immediately known. But what we know is that Father Frans didn’t leave the Bustan al-Diwan neighborhood for the last 3 years of civil war in Syria, where he as been living since 1964. He speaks Arabic very well and even takes Syria as his own country. Since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution, he has not left the Jesuit monastery, even though both government forces and the opposition have attacked it. Despite the precarious and dangerous situation, he has welcomed everyone, Muslims and Christians, pro-regime and rebels. Dozens of people have stayed with him for months on end. He was threatened many times by the rebellions and by the legal army.
Father Van Der Lugt, who was a voice crying in the wilderness, is another real Christian Martyr, like all the saints who died for Christ, and to whom we pray in our churches and daily prayers.
A Martyr who didn’t use any guns to fight; his only weapon was Love, as Love was mentioned in the Bible and as taught by his leader Jesus Christ. He always had his face uncovered and exposed, unlike his killers, who came masked trying to hide their hate and ugliness. They kill innocent people, they blow themselves and they are called martyrs.
Father Frans had a big part in alerting world opinion to the plight of people in Homs,he spoke to the world from the embattled city centre in a shaky video clip in which he was sitting in front the altar of his church, calling on the world to remember that Syrians are suffering and that several are going “mad with hunger.” Speaking in Arabic, he said:
Christians and Muslims are going through a difficult and painful time and we are faced with many problems. The greatest of these is hunger. People have nothing to eat. There is nothing more painful than watching mothers searching for food for children in the streets…I will not accept that we die of hunger. I do not accept that we drown in a sea of hunger, letting the waves of death drag us under. We love life, we want to live. And we do not want to sink in a sea of pain and suffering.
Maybe this clip was the cause of his death, or maybe his courage and willingness to hold the cross without fear. It doesn’t matter, he is a real hero, a real martyr, like all the other Christian religious people getting kidnapped, tortures and sometimes dying in the dirty war.
Our dear father who is in Heaven now, near the Father of Jesus, pray for us.