By John Newton (Original interview by Oliver Maksan)
PRIESTS in Syria have appealed for prayers for kidnapped priest Father Jacques Mourad and his colleague as uncertainty about their fate mounts.
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need a week after the abduction, Fr Jacques’s confrere, Fr Jihad Youssef, said: “Please pray for Fr Jacques and his companion, as well as for our community.
“Armed masked men took both of them away. We don’t know who it was and where our brothers are at this moment. We’re totally in the dark.”
Fr Youssef is a priest of the order of Mar Musa, a Syriac-Catholic monastic community, of which Fr Jacques is also a member.
The Syrian priest paid tribute to Fr Mourad’s work with the displaced who had been driven out of their homes.
He said: “In the monastery of Mar Elian in Qaryatayn Fr Jacques dedicated himself to the people suffering from the consequences of the Syrian war.
“In particular he set great store by renovation projects to enable people to live again in their houses, which had been destroyed.
“But the psychological care of people in the war and other emergency humanitarian aid were also important to him. For years he had cared for war refugees.”
Fr Youssef stressed that everyone was being helped by the Church, regardless of their religion.
He said: “Fr Jacques made no distinction between Christians or Muslims. He helped anyone in distress.”
Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting the work helping displaced Syrians at the monastery of Mar Elian, with more £71,000 (100,000 euros) in help.
Before Fr Jacques was abducted last week, he emailed Aid to the church in Need to thank the charity for its support and described the ongoing work.
He said: “We have received many who were asking a shelter in our safe monastery. When there was a possibility for these families to go back we tried to help them in the restoration of their houses.”
He added: “The situation of these families is hard considering the fact that they were obliged out of the surrounding danger to leave their houses without bringing away any kind of the essential needs.
“The difficulty [is] that there is a continuous increase of the prices of elementary needs. We were actually able in the year 2014 to help 50 refugee families. Poverty is expanding as there are no possibilities of work.
“All kinds of work stopped and even the wages of the employees are not enough to live in a good way.
“According to the statistics of the Syrian Arab Red Cross, there are 638 refugee families that came to Qaryatayn.
“We are trying to help some of these families offering children’s clothes and some presents especially in the occasions of the feasts.
“We hope by this to give back some hope of life for these children considered as victims of this violent war.”
Aid to the Church in Need has provided more than £8.5 million (12 million euros) helping the Church in Syria and Iraq since the end of 2011.