Martyred Priest: I Can’t Leave My People

The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
Jesus Christ

Father Frans van der Lugt, SJ refused to abandon his parish and people in the face of danger. He was the only priest who stayed when the area in Syria where he lived was overrun during the Syrian civil war.

“I can’t leave my people,” he said, “I can’t leave my church. I am director of this church, how can I leave them?”

Days before Father Lugt’s 76th birthday, an unknown gunman entered his church, beat him and shot him in the head.

From Catholic News Agency:

Days after Dutch priest Fr. Frans van der Lugt S.J. was murdered in Syria, a close young friend recalled his saintly life, noting both his personal holiness and extraordinary advances in Christian-Muslim relations.Wael Salibi, 26, recalled how when the Christian area in Homs was taken over by rebels, 66,000 of the faithful “left their home, and just few of them stayed there. He was the only priest, he stayed in his church.”

“Just months before he died, he said ‘I can’t leave my people, I can’t leave my church, I am director of this church, how can I leave them?’” Salibi told CNA on April 11.Salibi, who hails from the now-ravished city of Homs, grew up as a close friend and pupil of Fr. Frans, who was brutally killed on April 7.  Days before his 76th birthday, an unknown gunman entered his church, beat him and shot him in the head.For the past three years Syria has been embroiled in conflict which sprang up after citizens protested the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president and leader the country’s Ba’ath Party

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  • SisterCynthia

    Yes, there are still good shepherds. :’)

  • FW Ken

    The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.

    Holy Martyrs of God, pray for us.

  • Manny

    He is certainly in heaven. There is something wrong with Islam that they do such acts on innocent people with such impunity.

    • FW Ken


      There is much, I believe, that is wrong with Islam, but it’s not accurate to impute to all Muslims the acts of Islamists. Father van der Lugt considered it his mission to foster good relations with Muslims, as did the Atlas Martyrs, and it’s true that many good folks attribute their kind treatment of Christians to their faith.

      It’s true that the Islamist factions within the Islamic world are not small, and they have a fair amount of support from more Muslims than we want to think. But the decent, kind people would also attribute their own decency to Islam, and they would have a point. I think a critical factor is that, unlike Christianity, the Islamic world has not gone through a separation of religion from the political realm. Christians are still working out the form of that separation, but Islam still (theoretically) conflates the civic body with the religious body.

      My point is that the Muslim world, like the Christian world, is very complex.

      • Manny

        Fair enough. I don’t wish to impugn the whole Islamic world.