Syrian Muslim leaders have called for the release of Fr Jaques Mourad following his kidnapping on May 21 in the village of Al-Qaryatayn in Homs, Syria.
The missionary priest, who lived in the St Elias monetary in Syria, worked tirelessly for refugees, regardless of their religion, who have been displaced and their homes destroyed by the war.
Fr Mourad was known for his dedication to dialogue and friendship with the local community, reports Zenit.
Fides news agency has said: “Muslim leaders of the community, village chiefs, and clan leaders denounced the kidnapping and are now trying to open a channel and find a path for his release.”
A source local to the area added that those who kidnapped the priest “are foreign to the social, ethnic and religious fabric of the area.”
The source said: “The timeliness of the fall of Palmyra, a nearby town, and the kidnapping of Fr Murad, which occurred soon after, suggest a link with the Islamic state (IS).”
He continued: “If this were confirmed, it would not be a promising sign: the local Islamic authorities have no influence on the IS.
The circulating hypothesis is that some inhabitants of the area, for pure sectarian hatred, took him and then sold him to the Islamic State.”
Despite growing violence in the area, Fr Mourad was said to have remained committed to his mission to help the poor and displaced.
The source said: “He promoted solidarity among families of different religions, he was an example of humanitarian service without religious or ethnic labels. His life was an example to defuse sectarianism.”
There is still hope for the priest’s release, said the source, thanks to the hard work of “the local community, the Islamic authorities, and from people of good will.”
by Carolyn Wickware