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05/18/2024 Syria (International Christian Concern) – Father Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch Christian, embodied Christ’s commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you.” He fully lived out this mandate, following Jesus’ example on the Way of the Cross.

Settling in the Jesuit Monastery in Homs’ Bustan al-Diwan neighborhood in 1993, Father Frans dedicated himself to his faith and community. Despite humble accommodations — a mattress on the floor surrounded by countless books — he made the monastery a place where many young people would go to hear the word of God and learn how to live it.

When armed groups entered the city of Homs in March of 2011, forcing the evacuation of the city’s Christians, Father Frans remained steadfast, refusing to abandon the 66 Christians who could not leave.

Enduring the horrors of siege — hunger, cold, and illness — he stood by his people, rejecting the option to return to the safety of his homeland. He told one of the young men about his unwillingness to leave the area, saying, “I am the head of this monastery. How do I leave it? How do I leave Christians? This is impossible.” He also said, “There is also a reason that is very important to me. I love the Syrian people and (have) lived with them in the most beautiful of times, and if the Syrian people are currently suffering, I would like to share their pain and problems with them.”

His love for the Syrian people knew no bounds. Father Frans chose solidarity over comfort, sharing in the suffering of his fellow Syrians. He witnessed their struggles firsthand, from the scarcity of food to the desperation of parents unable to feed their children.

Father Frans’ unwavering commitment to his adopted home distinguished him as a true father figure, beloved by all. He was the only foreign Christian who preferred to remain in old Homs with the besieged residents of the neighborhood, and he repeatedly refused to leave despite the evacuations carried out by the United Nations, which helped hundreds leave the besieged areas of Homs.

Tragically, his selflessness cost him his life. On April 7, 2014, armed groups came to his house, took him out, and shot him twice in the head — a final testament to his devotion to his faith and the people he served.

For more than 35 years, Father Frans lived and died in Syria, leaving behind a legacy of love and sacrifice. His story is a poignant reminder of the profound influence one individual can have when guided by unwavering compassion and dedication to others.

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