Afghanistan: Indian Jesuit released after eight months in captivity
(Vatican Radio/JRS) After more than eight months in captivity, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) announced the release of Fr Alexis Prem Kumar. In a statement published Monday JRS states it is “immensely grateful to the Indian government for its role in achieving his release”.
“The last eight months have been a long and difficult period of uncertainty for Fr Prem’s family, friends and colleagues. You cannot imagine our relief that he is now home, safe and sound. We are aware of the tireless efforts at many levels to achieve his release and we are grateful for the consolation we have received from the prayerful support of countless friends, including those of the school children from the school where he was kidnapped,” said Fr Peter Balleis SJ, JRS International Director.
On 2 June 2014, Fr Kumar was taken by a group of unidentified men in western Afghanistan while on a visit to a JRS-supported school for returnee refugees in a settlement 34km from the city of Herat. The forty-seven year old Jesuit, from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, was about to return to Herat when he was forced at gunpoint into a vehicle by a group of armed men.
JRS has worked in Afghanistan became in 2005. Even during the difficult months of Fr Prem’s captivity, however, JRS continued to run its programmes in the country in order to ensure that Afghan students had continued access to quality education.
“Our role in Afghanistan has been to help displaced persons and their host communities, to offer them education and skills so they can rebuild their lives and those of their communities. We were close to the Afghan people before the abduction of Fr Prem and we will continue to accompany them in any way we can” said Fr Stan Fernandes, JRS Regional Director in South Asia.
Before moving to Afghanistan five years ago, Prem Kumar had worked for the Jesuit Refugee Service, serving Sri Lankan refugees living in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. At the time of his kidnapping, he was the JRS Afghanistan Director.
“Our attention now turns to the welfare of Fr Prem. All of us will do whatever we can to ensure that Prem receives the necessary attention and support from his family, his Jesuit brothers in the Society of Jesus, and his many friends and colleagues in JRS,” Fr Fernandes emphasised.