St Ignatius helped priest through his captivity in Syria
Fr Jacques Mourad, the Syriac Catholic priest who escaped earlier this month after being held captive in Syria by Daesh (ISIS), has said that prayer helped him remain calm and at peace during his five months of captivity. In addition to praying to the Virgin Mary, Fr Mourad said he also prayed to the founder of the Jesuits, St Ignatius Loyola, and Blessed Charles de Foucauld, whose martyrdom in 1916 led to the founding of the Little Brothers of Jesus. And he said he felt supported by the prayers of people throughout the world who were concerned for his safety.
Fr Mourad is one several priests and religious involved in programmes of reconciliation and dialogue in the Middle East who have been kidnapped in Syria in recent years. They include two bishops and two Syrian priests who were taken captive two years ago and Italian Jesuit Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio SJ, who was kidnapped in July 2013 and about whom no official information has been received since. In April 2014, Dutch Jesuit Fr Frans van der Lugt SJ was murdered in Syria: his commitment to the Syrian people led him to remain in the Jesuit church in the Old City, even when that area was under siege.
Reconciliation amidst violence
It was with the assistance of a friend that Fr Mourad was able to escape from Daesh-held Qaratayn on the back of a motorbike, disguised as an Islamist. His outreach to Muslims had led to him being known as ‘Sheikh Jacques’ and his friend’s family had been helped by the priest’s programme of aid to the poor and disadvantaged, supported by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which is working alongside the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) to provide humanitarian relief and to work for reconciliation and peace amidst the violence of the region.
Speaking to ACN after his release, Fr Mourad said: “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’.” He also spoke from the Monastery of Mar Musa in Nebek, Syria, about his future: “I plan to take some time, stay alone, pray, go out of this experience and after that maybe I will see what I have to do,” he said. “I want to see the light of God to guide me to put in my heart what I have to do. I’m sure God will ask me to do something bigger after this difficult experience.”
Read more about the situation in Syria and how agencies – including ACN and JRS – are supporting the people of the region.