‘No-one who knew Frans van der Lugt, the Dutch Jesuit priest murdered in Syria, was surprised by his refusal to leave the besieged city of Homs. He had spent almost 50 years in Syria and had been in Homs since the siege began more than two years ago’.
So writes Bethlehem-based writer Daniel Silas Adamson in his piece ‘Frans van der Lugt: A Dutch priest in Homs’, as published recently in the BBC News Magazine.
Reading about Fr. van der Lugt brings back memories of that wonderful film ‘Of Gods and Men‘. Centering on the true story of the monastery of Tibhirine, Algeria, where nine Cistercian monks lived in harmony with the largely Muslim population, until seven of them were kidnapped and assassinated in 1996, the film is a moving testament to courage and faith in adversity.
Adamson captures the essence of van der Lugt’s calling when he writes: ‘The last European left inside the Old City, he was sought out by journalists and became a spokesman for the trapped and starving civilian population. “I have learned about the generosity of the Syrian people,” he told a reporter earlier this year. “If these people are suffering now I want to be in solidarity with them. As I was with these people in their good times, I am with them in their pain.”
van der Lugt was a focal point for inter-faith dialogue; he worked with the poor and disabled and reached out to the local Muslim population with love and generosity. He was also a man who understood the importance of living out the gospel message of social justice, service and the dignity of the person, regardless of creed.
You can read Adamson’s excellent and thought-provoking piece here: //www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-27155474 . Frans van der Lugt is certainly an example of discipleship worth reflecting on.