Priest and Refugee Suffered Syrian War Firsthand

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Currents News Staff

Fr. Jacques Mourad has Syria in his heart, but he has decided not to return home. He lives in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq as one more refugee among others.

“Refusing to return to Mar Musa in Syria is a choice. I have chosen to live as a refugee alongside other refugees in order to understand them and to share in their suffering. I have done this to tell others what they have gone through,” said Mourad.

The priest has suffered the Syrian war firsthand. He had to flee from his country, torn apart by a conflict, with no end in sight, and in which religion has been used for violent ends.

“Religions are a gift, whether it’s Islam or Christianity. They endow strength, and are both a path to peace. Therefore, religion should never again be used to wage war,” he said.

[Related: Syrian Nun: “To Heal a Wounded Heart Takes a Long Time”]

On May 21, 2015, Fr. Jacques was kidnapped by jihadists from ISIS in his Monastery of St. Elian, near the ancient city of Palmyra that had been recently conquered. They took him to Raqqa, at the time the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Thus, began his months spent in Calvary.

He recounts his experience in A Monk Held Hostage, a book with which he intends to send a clear message.

“My experience is to share that the power of love and the strength of dialogue overcomes fear, overcomes evil and overcomes darkness,” said Mourad.

His great concern for the millions of Syrian refugees around the world led him to learn about the work of the Community of Sant’Egidio. Their humanitarian projects have saved the lives of thousands of refugees, many of them Syrians. During these times, he developed a solid friendship with Andrea Riccardi, who wrote the prologue to A Monk Held Hostage.

“It is the story of a Christian Arab living in a very complicated situation in Syria, as he faces Islamic fundamentalism and jihad. It is a book to be read because it is a special testimony that presents a story from our time but also a story of spirituality,” said Riccardi.

In the book, Fr. Mourad also remembers another priest who has been kidnapped since 2013, Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio. Together they founded the monastic community of Mar Musa, a home that peacefully brings together Christians and Muslims.