Jihadists in Syria kidnap another priest, signalling ISIS is on the move
The abduction of this priest is interpreted by many as a sign of the intention of ISIS to capture more territory in eastern Syria, including the city of Homs.
By Marta Petrosillo
ROME—Almost two years since
the abduction in Raqqa, Syria, of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, jihadists grabbed another
monk from the Deir Mar Musa monastery, some 50
miles north of Damascus, the Syrian capital
On May 21, 2015, another of its monks, Jesuit
Father Jacques Mourad was abducted in Qaryatay, a small town in central Syria some 65 miles from
Palmyra. There, Father Mourad had been ministering for the past 12 to the local
Syrian-Catholic community, while living in the monastery of Mar Elias. Father
Mourad was last in touch with his community was around midday yesterday.
"We still have
no news of him. We only know that he was abducted by four men, undoubtedly belonging
to a jihadist group,” Father Nawras Sammour, SJ, director of the Jesuit Refugee
Service for the Middle East, told Aid to the Church in Need. Father Mourad was
travelling with a co-worker when two motorcycles drew up alongside his car. His
kidnappers seized the vehicle and abducted the Jesuit priest.
Speaking by telephone
from Damascus, Father Sammour recalled his last meeting with Father Mourad around
two months ago. "He was extremely concerned about the presence of the
fundamentalists in Qaryatayn,” he said.
Nonetheless, the priest was committed
to staying put to continue his work sheltering and supporting Internally
Displaced People in his monastery.
At some point, Father
Mourad even negotiated with the Al Nusra Front to secure the release of
hostages. "When I asked him if he was intending to leave, he told me that
he would do so only if forced; otherwise he would remain with his people,”
Father Sammour said.
In the last few days,
Father Jacques had also welcomed many refugees from Palmyra, the city that just
fell to the Islamic State. "He has always helped the Syrians and has
welcomed a great many Muslims into the monastery of Mar Elias,” Father Sammour
reported. The abduction of this priest is interpreted by many as a sign of the
intention of ISIS to capture more territory in eastern Syria, including the
city of Homs. Father Mourad expressed the same fear just days before his
In addition to the
abduction of Father Dall’Oglio and the two bishops in Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim
and Bulos Yazigi, Father Sammour also recalled the murders of Father François
Mourad, who was assassinated in Ghassanieh in June 2013; and of Father Frans
Van Der Lugt, was shot dead in Homs in April of last year. "We priests are
fully aware of the risks we run, but we cannot do otherwise than remain
alongside the Syrian people, both Christians and Muslims. In many cases we are
the only ones they can turn to."
Father Jacques Mourad (photo courtesy of Father Ziad Hilal, SJ)