Fr Frans van de Lugt (1938-2014)

Three years ago, nearly to the day, Fr Frans van de Lugt, a Dutch Jesuit, was murdered in the city of Homs, in western Syria.

Fr Franz had spent nearly 50 years in the Middle East, mostly in Syria, where he had grown to love the Syrian people. As a trained psychiatrist he put his skills to good use to bring people of different faiths together. In the 1990s he founded a centre outside Homs for disabled children, of whatever faith.

When the war in Syria started, Homs was one of the hot spots: it was besieged by the rebels, who took control of the city centre, where the Jesuit house was situated. For Fr Frans it was natural to decide to remain where he was, in spite of all the opportunities to leave. He shared his home with some 50 Syrians, most of whom were Muslims, eking out what meagre supplies were available.

When food in the besieged part of Homs was running so low that there was a real risk of people dying of hunger, the government bowed to intense pressure and lifted the siege of the rebel controlled part of Homs. Those living there, including Fr Frans, were given the option to leave. Once again Fr Frans chose not to leave his people, and like most of them, remained where he was.

On April 7th, 2014 Fr Frans was shot dead.

He was one of the blessed praised by Jesus, those who are ready to suffer for the sake of righteousness, for what they believe to be true and just, to build a world as close as can be to what God wants of it. He knew he was going to pay a high price for his choice but he remained true to himself and to what he believed in.

How true sound the words of Jesus, Theirs is the kingdom of heaven!

Jesus, the innocent victim

Once more Jesus is speaking about himself, the one who paid a high price for living what he believed in to the end: he did not choose to die, but he knew that his options would lead him to share the fate of so many righteous people before him.

His food, he once said, was to do the will of his Father, and like the grain of wheat he chose to die to bring life to us all.

Today’s video accompanying this reflection is called ‘Fr Frans Van der Lugt SJ: Man of Peace and Bridgebuilder‘. Although no video will quite capture the saintliness and selflessness of the man portrayed, it will give at least some insight into the simple and wonderful life of Fr Frans, a true Jesuit, a true Christian.