By Reinhard Backes, ACN International
Adapted by ACN Canada
ACN, Montreal, April 9, 2014 – Father Frans van der Lugt is dead. The Dutch Jesuit and project partner of “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN) was shot Monday morning (April 7) in Homs by an unknown person, as reported by his fellow Jesuit, Father Ziad Hilal. “Father Frans was evidently killed by targeted shots to the head. We received the news by phone from one of the faithful who was with him in the old city,” Father Ziad said in a telephone interview with “Aid to the Church in Need”. Father Frans van der Lugt (75) had worked in Syria since 1967 and he was holding out with 20 other Christians in the almost totally destroyed old city, which had been under siege from the Syrian arms for two years. He looked after the remaining residents and also wanted to protect the Jesuit church, his fellow priest went on to explain. According to Father Ziad it is at present not possible to get into the old city to recover Father Frans’ body.
As recently as the end of March Father Ziad had been in Brussels with staff from “Aid to the Church in Need” to tell EU representatives about the situation around Homs. He spoke via Skype with Father Frans, among other things about his imminent birthday, which they had hoped to celebrate together. On this occasion Father Ziad said about his fellow priest: “For me, he embodies Christ in the world, who is willing to die for his friends and who always gives us hope. He always asks me how I am and doesn’t talk much about his own well-being.”
In view of the depressing news about Father Frans’ death, Father Andrzej Halemba, head of the Middle East section at “Aid to the Church in Need”, called for people to pray for an end to the fighting and for peace in the region, for the late Father Frans and for the besieged Christians.
“Aid to the Church in Need” has supported the people affected by the civil war in Syria for a number of years. To date more than 2.5 million euros has been spent on aid programmes co-ordinated by Father Ziad in Syria. Other projects are being prepared. The total number of Syrians who have fled the civil war is currently estimated at 9 million: 6.5 million are on the run in their country and a further 2.5 million have left Syria.