This report is contributed by John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need.
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Father Jacques Mourad has told how he escaped Daesh (ISIS) in Syria with the help of a friend whose family had been helped by the priest’s programme of aid to the poor and disadvantaged.
Speaking out after nearly six months in the hands of the Islamist terror group, Fr Mourad said that with the help of the friend he had escaped Daesh-held Qaratayn on the back of a motorbike disguised as an Islamist fighter.
The friend – who had links with Daesh – had told Fr Mourad he was impressed by the priest’s humanitarian relief work in Qaratayn – food, shelter and medicine – funded by charities including Aid to the Church in Need.
In an exclusive interview with ACN, Fr Mourad said: “What ACN has done to help us has played a great role in setting me free.”
Fr Mourad, whose outreach to Muslims led him to be known as ‘Sheikh Jacques’, said that when Qaratayn’s water supplies were cut off he helped build a reservoir with the help of ACN.
He said he was convinced that this help had caused the militants to show leniency towards 150 Christians held hostage by Daesh in Qaratayn.
Speaking by telephone from Syria, Fr Mourad said: “The help of people such as you at ACN has helped protect the Christians in the hands of Daesh.”
Fr Mourad described how pressure from Muslims in Qaratayn had prompted his return to the city under house arrest following 84 days in a Daesh prison at the terror group’s headquarters in Raqqa, northern Syria.
He said: “One day, one of the ISIS leaders came to me and said: ‘Everybody in Qaratayn had been talking about you, asking for you.’ So he told me to come with him.
“I was led away – still blindfolded and with hands bound – and I was taken into what seemed like a huge tunnel.
“Some time later, they removed my blindfold and I could see all my parish in front of me in the shelter that ACN had built. It was amazing.”
Recalling his time in prison, Fr Mourad said that every day in the prison Islamists would threaten to kill him.
He added: “I was waiting for the moment when they would come and slit my throat.”
Fr Mourad said he was convinced his efforts to remain calm and at peace helped save his life.
“I was very conscious of the prayers of so many people – the prayers of St Ignatius of Loyola and Charles de Foucauld – ‘Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.’”
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)