Homs (Agenzia Fides) - Priest Jacques Murad, Prior of the Monastery of Mar Elian, was abducted by two kidnappers at the Monastery under the threat of arms. According to some local sources, contacted by Agenzia Fides, the seizure most probably took place on Monday, May 18, while other sources claim that the priest was kidnapped on Thursday May, 21. The news was confirmed today by the Syrian Catholic Archdiocese of Homs, that asked all the faithful to invoke the Lord in prayer so that father Jacques is released and can return to his life of prayer, to serve his brothers and all Syrians.
According to some local sources, it is believed that also deacon Boutros Hanna was kidnapped, too. But this rumor has not been confirmed by the Syrian Catholic archdiocese of Homs.
According to preliminary reports, the kidnapping was carried out by two armed men on motorbikes who arrived at the Monastery of Mar Elian. The abductors forced father Jacques to get in his car and, under the threat of weapons, forced him to go to an unknown destination.
Local sources consulted by Fides speculate that behind the kidnapping there are Salafi groups in the area, who felt strengthened by the recent success of the jihadists of al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Syrian territory.
Father Jacques Murad is the Prior of the Monastery of Mar Elian and pastor of the community in Qaryatayn, 60 km southeast of Homs.
The monastic settlement, located on the outskirts of Quaryatayn, is a branch of the Monastery of Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi, refounded by the Italian Jesuit Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio, who was also kidnapped on July 29, 2013 while he was in Raqqa, the Syrian capital for years under the control of the jihadist of the Islamic State.
In the years of conflict, the city of Qaryatayn was repeatedly conquered by anti-Assad militias and bombed by the Syrian army. It was father Jacques, along with a Sunni lawyer, who acted as mediators to ensure that the urban center of 35 thousand inhabitants was spared for long periods by armed clashes.
The Monastery hosted hundreds of refugees, including more than a hundred children under ten years of age. Father Jacques and his friends provided to find the bare necessities for their survival even by seeking the help of Muslim donors. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 22/05/2015)