March 29, 2019 — April 7, 2019 will mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Dutch Jesuit Frans van der Lugt, who was murdered in Homs, Syria, at the age of 75. To honour Father Frans and highlight his message of love against hatred, the Jesuits in the Netherlands and Flanders have produced an animated film about him.
In the film, available in 9 languages, Van der Lugt makes an urgent appeal to every human being to never give the last word to hatred, but to fight for love. “To my last gasp, I hoped that the hate, conflict and pain would stop”.
The fictional voice of Jesuit Van der Lugt looks back on the abrupt end of his life. On the one hand he has hope, on the other there is his own death. “As if everything has stopped. And yet it keeps going. Yes, it keeps on going.” That is his firm conviction, for “it is love that keeps on going. Nobody should be discouraged.”
In the animation film he says: “Despite the hunger and violence, I never thought about leaving our besieged neighbourhood in Homs. Our neighbourhood is no bigger than a square kilometre. Yet Muslims and Christians from all backgrounds live together peacefully. Our way of living here, this was the Syria I knew. I couldn’t give up on that.”
That sums up the spirituality of Frans van der Lugt sj. What drove him was love for Syria and the Syrian people. Although he was a Catholic priest, he made no distinction between Christians and Muslims. He tried to help everyone and spread a message of hope.
In the months before his death, Frans van der Lugt, SJ called on the international community to end the war and send food. His powerful video messages were shown worldwide in many news programmes. His brutal death came as a shock.
Van der Lugt’s case is just one example of how Jesuits have continued to aid people in Syria regardless of their politics, religion or other factors, even to the point of martyrdom. Another foreign-born Jesuit who made his home in Syria, the Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, fell out with the government early in the conflict; he was kidnapped almost a year ago, it is believed, by extremist fighters. His fate remains unknown.