Prayers of hope for JRS director

The International Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) says they are grateful for the outpouring of prayerful support that they have received since the abduction a month ago of their Afghanistan Director, Fr Alexis Prem Kumar SJ. Fr Peter Balleis SJ says the past month has been a painful time for Prem's family, his Jesuit confreres across the world, and for all in JRS. “Although we still have not heard from him or his captors, we live in hope,” he says. “All the information we have continues to suggest that he is alive and he remains in Afghanistan.”

Forty-seven year old Fr Prem (pictured) is an Indian national. Before moving to Afghanistan four years ago, he worked among Sri Lankan refugees in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He was abducted by a group of armed men from a JRS-sponsored school in Sohadat, a government township for returnee families in western Afghanistan, on 2 June. Since then, JRS staff have worked quietly to resolve this difficult situation.

“We have been in close contact with the Afghan authorities and the Indian Consul General in Herat, Afghanistan,” explains Fr Balleis. “We continue to be thankful for and count on their help as they make every effort to assure Prem's release as soon as possible. We have also called on professional expertise and the advice of the local community to advance our efforts at bringing him back to us.”

After a brief closure last month, JRS have re-opened the majority of their educational programmes. “We remain committed to accompany our Afghan students and their families in their desire for quality education and re-opening our schools is a clear sign of that commitment,” says Fr Balleis. “We remain committed as well to doing everything in our power to ensure Fr Alexis Prem Kumar's safety and hope that by the end of Ramadan those who have taken him will release him as a festive Eid-al-Fitr gift.” Ramadan ends with Eid-al-Fitr on 29 July.