(Agenzia Fides) – “We are grateful to the Lord and give praise to the merciful God for this gift. And we thank all the friends in the world who prayed for Jacques and for our monastic community, Christians, Muslims or others, even those who do not believe or believe otherwise, for their solidarity and sympathy”. This is what Fr. Jihad Youssef, Syrian monk of the monastic community of Deir Mar Musa tells Agenzia Fides who expresses his joy and gratitude and that of other monks and nuns of the community for the return to freedom of Syrian priest Jacques Murad [Mourad], who was also a member of the monastic community and the Prior of the Syrian Catholic monastery in Qaryatayn.
“We ask for the prayers and solidarity of every man and woman of good will for peace in Syria and around the world”, adds Fr. Jihad “and especially for all the people who have been abducted or have disappeared”.
Syrian priest Jacques Murad was released on Sunday 11 October, who since May 21, gunmen had kidnapped him from the Syrian Catholic monastery in Qaryatayn, 60 km south-east of Homs. According to news reported by local sources, the priest is physically well and yesterday celebrated Sunday mass in Zaydal, in the south-east of Homs.
Father Murad is part of the monastic community of Deir Mar Musa, founded by the Roman Jesuit Paolo Dall’Oglio, who disappeared in northern Syria on July 29, 2013 while he was in Raqqa, a stronghold of the .
The monastic settlement of Mar Elian, on the outskirts of Quaryatayn, had represented an oasis of peace and hospitality in the heart of a war zone. It was Father Jacques, along with a Sunni lawyer, who became mediators to ensure that the urban center of 35 thousand inhabitants were spared for long periods by fighting between the army and government anti-Assad militants. In the Monastery hundreds of refugees were welcomed, including more than a hundred children under ten years of age. Father Jacques and his friends had provided to find the necessary for their survival even by seeking the help of Muslim donors. Then, last August, the jihadists of the Islamic State took control of the area and devastated the monastery. During their offensive in the south-east of Homs, the jihadists also took hostage about 270 Christians and Muslims in the area of Qaryatayn. In recent days, a video was released on jihadist websites which shows a group of Christians in Qaryatayn while they participate in the meeting in which they had to sign a “payment contract” to continue living in their homes, in the territory controlled by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (Daesh) (See Fides 07/10/2015).
Photographic images of that meeting, which took place in a conference room in Qaryatayn, had been released already at the end of August. Both in the video and [photographic] images, Father Murad appears among the participants. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 12/10/2015)