Dutch Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt prays at the residence of the Jesuit fathers in the besieged area of Homs, Syria, Jan. 29. (CNS photo/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)
The Society of Jesus’ Middle East province has reported
that Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt was shot and killed in the Syrian city of
the Associated Press:
The 75-year-old Van Der Lugt, an Arabic speaker, had
lived in Syria for 50 years and refused to leave Homs even as hundreds of
civilians were evacuated from rebel-held districts of Homs that have been
besieged for more than a year by Assad’s forces. Van Der Lugt lived in the
monastery in one of those neighborhoods, Bustan al-Diwan.
He appeared to have been directly targeted in the
early morning attack, according to several people who were in the monastery
when the attack occurred. A single gunman walked into the monastery, entered
the garden and shot him in the head, said Rev. Ziad Hillal.
“I am truly shocked. A man of peace has been
murdered,” Hillal said in a phone interview from Homs with the Vatican Radio.
A person who has lived in the monastery with the slain
priest said he was buried in the convent’s garden late Monday. The person who
passed the information of the priest’s burial on the phone did not want to be
identified for fear of being targeted.
The motives for the attack were not known, and no one
immediately claimed responsibility for the killing.
Father Van der Lugt was known for his efforts, not just to
serve those suffering in Homs, but to alert the rest of the world about the
plight of civilians in the besieged region.
“Hunger defeated us! We can see its signs drawn over
the faces,” Van Der Lugt wrote on Jan. 25 on a Syrian Christian Facebook group
“People are wandering the streets screaming; We are
starving, we need food!,” the priest wrote in a statement published in English
and French. “We are living a scary reality. Human beings turn into wild animals
living in the wild.”
The Jesuit also
spoke with Catholic News Service in early February:
"There has been no food. People are hungry and
waiting for help. No injured people have been allowed to leave.
been hoping to get out of the siege and out of the fighting between the two
sides," [Father Van der Lugt] told CNS by phone, through an interpreter.
have not received proper treatment, so healing has been difficult. Newborns die
very quickly because of a lack of milk," he said. "There have been
cases of death due to hunger and starvation."