The Jesuit Refugee Service has said all the information it has continues to suggest that its Afghanistan director is alive and remains in the country.
In a statement issued Monday, JRS international director Peter Balleis SJ said although the organisation still has not heard from Indian-born Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar or his captors, “we live in hope.”
Fr. Prem, 47, was abducted by a group of unidentified men in early June as he was leaving a JRS-supported school for returnee refugees in Sohadat village, about 15 miles from the city of Herat in western Afghanistan.
The JRS has been working quietly to free Fr. Prem, making representations with the Afghan authorities and the Indian Consul General in Herat, Afghanistan. The family of the Jesuit country director has been appealing for help from Indian parliamentarians and the government of Tamil Nadu.
Fr. Balleis said this past month "has been a painful time for Prem's family, his Jesuit confreres across the world, and for all of us in JRS,” and expressed his gratitude “for the outpouring of prayerful support that we have received from many quarters.”
“Fellow Jesuits from both India and the rest of the world, as well as members of many religious communities, have expressed their concern for his safety,” he said. “We are particularly grateful to the advice and assistance offered by several humanitarian aid agencies in the early stages of the emergency.”
Fr. Balleis said Fr. Prem's students and their families in Sohadat “pray daily for his release and long for the day when they will see him again in their school, which will re-open upon his release.”
He added that the JRS is aware the current political situation in Afghanistan, which is currently facing national elections, may make the process of his release “more complicated than we had imagined.”
The organisation is continuing its work in the country which is largely centred on education. “We remain committed as well to doing everything in our power to ensure Fr Alexis Prem Kumar's safety,” Fr. Balleis said, “and hope that by the end of Ramadan those who have taken him will release him as a festive Eid al-Fitr gift.”
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