A Syrian priest, Fr. Jacques Mourad, who spent more than four months as a prisoner of the deadly terrorist group ISIS is headed back to the war zone, he says he wants both Christians and Muslims to embrace mercy.
“I will return right away to the Middle East. It’s God who asks us to continue our mission,” Fr. Mourad said.
During a press conference in Rome organized by the pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need on Dec 10, he said Christian outreach can be part of the Church’s Year of Mercy.
“I ask first that Christians look with eyes and hearts of mercy and carry out the mission of mercy for all Muslims. It’s a way of combating violence. In this way they are a witness, a true testimony for our brothers.”
“I want to tell Muslims to remember that they are a religion of mercy,” he added.
“They understand Christians well, they accept them because they are mentioned in the Quran. They have nothing to do with religion and war. One can’t use religion to make war. Religion is a call to a righteous life, to peace, not to war.”
Fr. Mourad was prior of the Monastery of Mar Elian near Al Qaryatayn, about 60 miles southeast of Homs. Until it was destroyed by Islamic State militants in August, Mar Elian was cared for by the Al-Khalil community based at Deir Mar Musa. Mourad was known to help both Christians and Muslims and was preparing aid for the arrival of hundreds of refugees from Palmyra.
Islamic State (Isis) militants bulldozed parts of the ancient monastery of Mar Elian in Qaryatain, a strategic town located in the central Syrian province of Homs.
“They took us to Raqqa, what is considered the ISIS capital, into a prison and put us in a bathroom to humiliate us,” he said.
The priest said he considered this a blessing “because this is our vocation: to be humble even in the face of violence.”
“In these 84 days that I was a prisoner in that bathroom in Raqqa, one could say that it is one of the most difficult experiences for a person to undergo, to lose their freedom. But for me it was also a very intense experience from a spiritual point of view.”
In captivity he also prayed the prayer of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, a French Catholic Religious priest who lived among the Muslim Tuareg tribes of North Africa as a hermit. The priest was kidnapped in Algeria by bandits on Dec. 1, 1916, and killed when the kidnapping attempt was disrupted.
“He was a victim of violence, but still gave his entire life in Algeria to dialogue with Islam,” Fr. Mourad explained as he recounted his trial.