Indian Jesuit abducted in Afghanistan released: Modi tweets

Finally, after nine months of uncertainty and anxiety, Fr Alex Prem Kumar is set free!
Fr Prem, a Jesuit priest from Tamil Nadu (Madurai province) was working in the war-torn Afghanistan under the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). During one of his round-ups, he was abducted by the Taliban, after which his whereabouts were unknown.
I knew Fr Prem personally. As a Jesuit, he was my two years junior in the Society (though senior in age). We did meet in 2012 in New Delhi, when I had gone to Delhi for some official work on Community Radio SARANG 107.8FM. Fr Prem was there to work out his visa details; and we happened to meet at Indian Social Institute, unexpectedly!
Now, to learn that he is safe and is set free, is a matter of great joy!
———-
New Delhi: The Indian government scored a diplomatic coup when it managed to secure the release of a Jesuit priest abducted by Taliban in Afghanistan nearly nine months ago.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday expressed happiness over the release of Father Alexis Prem Kumar.

“Delighted at securing the release of Indian Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar from captivity in Afghanistan,” tweeted Modi.

Father Kumar, a member of the Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), was working in western Herat province when gunmen took him into custody on June 2, 2014.

The prime minister also said he has spoken to Father Kumar and informed his family in Tamil Nadu, southern India, about the 47-year-old priest’s safe return after months in captivity.

Jesuit Father Joy Karayampuram, spokesperson for the Jesuits in South Asia, too expressed happiness at the news. He told Matters India that the Jesuits are grateful to the Indian government for getting Father Kumar released.

“Fr. Prem Kumar’s family, Jesuit Refugee service (JRS), the Jesuits and the Indian Catholic Church, are extremely happy and thankful to the Prime Minister Mr. Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for securing the safe release of Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar,” said a statement from the Jesuit Conference of South Asia Sunday evening.

More than 4,000 Jesuits in the region and their friends throughout the world have been praying for Fr Kumar’s safety and release all these months, the spokesperson said.

Sources in the Afghanistan police Wednesday claimed to have located Father Kumar, NDTV reported.

The Indian private TV channel also said the Afghanistan forces have arrested a man in connection with the abduction.

The police sources said Fr Kumar was located in Gilan in Herat, Afghanistan’s western province.

Father Kumar is the country director of JRS for Afghanistan and he was kidnapped when he was on a visit to a school for Afghan refugee children from Iran and Pakistan the international NGO supports in Sohadat, 34 km away from Heart.

The school in Sohadat encourages the education of girls and this could be one of the reasons why the Taliban has taken this step.

JRS has been working in Afghanistan since 2008 helping those returning home from exile in Iran and Pakistan by providing education and healthcare services in Bamiyan, Kabul and Herat.

The Jesuit activities in Afghanistan have been based at Herat, the third largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 436,300. The city is situated in the valley of the Hari River.

The abduction came nearly 10 days after the attack on the Indian consulate in Herat. Four heavily-armed gunmen carrying rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns attacked the consulate. However, security forces repelled the attack and killed the militants on May 23, 2014.

Father Kumar, a member of the Madurai Jesuit province, joined JRS for more than a decade. He has been working in Afghanistan for the past five years.

Fr Kumar has more than 20 years of varied experience in social development, capacity building, program management, advocacy, and disaster management, said a statement from Jesuit Father Stan Fernandes, JRS South Asia Regional Director.

He joined the Jesuits or the Society of Jesus in 1988. He had worked with Sri Lanka refugees in Tamil Nadu for six years.

Fr Kumar had also worked as the director of PEAK (People’s Education and Action in Kodaikanal), a social action center in Tamil Nadu, for six years.

Jesuits first reached Afghanistan in 1582 when Mughal emperor Akbar took along one of their priests to Kabul from Agra. A year later, in 1582, Jesuit Brother Bento de Gomes stopped there on his way to China. But neither stayed for long.

The Jesuits returned there 420 years later when a four-member delegation arrived in Kabul to explore the possibility of launching educational activities in the war-ravaged nation.

The JRS serves in 57 countries working for the rights of refugees and forcibly displaced persons. The JRS Regional Office in Delhi coordinates works among refugees, returnees, internally displaced people, and war-affected communities in South Asia.

Jesuits first reached Afghanistan in 1582 when Mughal emperor Akbar took along one of their priests to Kabul from Agra. A year later, in 1582, Jesuit Brother Bento de Gomes stopped there on his way to China. But neither stayed for long.

The Jesuits returned there 420 years later when a four-member delegation arrived in Kabul to explore the possibility of launching educational activities in the war-ravaged nation.
http://mattersindia.com/indian-jesuit-abducted-in-afghanistan-released-modi-tweets/

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