Local Muslim leaders in Syria have called for the release of a kidnapped missionary priest.
On May 21, Father Jacques Murad was abducted in the village of Al-Qaryatayn in Homs, Syria. The priest, who lived in the monastery of St. Elias, was known for his dedication to dialogue, closeness and friendship towards the local community.
According to Fides news agency, “Muslim leaders of the community, village chiefs, and clan leaders denounced the kidnapping and are now trying to open a channel and find a path for his release.”
A local source reported that those who seized the priest “are foreign to the social, ethnic and religious fabric of the area.”
“The timeliness of the fall of Palmyra, a nearby town, and the kidnapping of Fr. Murad, which occurred soon after, suggest a link with the Islamic state (IS),” the source stated. “If this were confirmed, it would not be a promising sign: the local Islamic authorities have no influence on the IS. The circulating hypothesis is that some inhabitants of the area, for pure sectarian hatred, took him and then sold him to the Islamic State.”
Fr. Murad, who has lived in the village for 10 years, belonged to the same monastic community of Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio, who was also kidnapped on July 29th, 2013. His whereabouts remain unknown.
The escalating violence in the region did not deter Fr. Murad from continuing his pastoral work. The source told Fides that “Father Jacques lived a constant commitment to dialogue, prayer, reconciliation.”
“He promoted solidarity among families of different religions, he was an example of humanitarian service without religious or ethnic labels. His life was an example to defuse sectarianism.”
While acknowledging the difficulties in obtaining his release, the local source said that there still remains a glimmer of hope, thanks to “the local community, the Islamic authorities, and from people of good will.” (J.A.E.)