The Comboni Missionaries’ dedication to spreading the faith into all corners of the world has very frequently seen them embroiled in violent political conflict. As a result, the Missionaries have over the years faced extreme hardship – much like other Christian orders, including the monastic community in Deir Mar Musa, Syria, are currently experiencing.
In Syria, the Christian faith is currently under severe threat from IS extremists. Father Jacques Murad, Prior of the Monastery of Mar Elian in western Syria, underwent capture and imprisonment by IS for several months this year. He was deprived of his freedom by armed jihadists on May 21, abducted from his monastery on the outskirts of Qaryatayn alongside a co-worker.
Describing the spiritual experience he underwent during his imprisonment, Father Jacques said:
“Even while being deported, with my hands tied behind my back, I surprisingly found myself repeating again and again: I am going towards freedom. My captivity was like being born again.”
Father Jacques also recounted how he celebrated Mass in an underground dormitory with 250 other Christians from Qaryatayn, held captive by the same jihadists. Father Jacques said the Christians were often questioned about their faith and about the Christian doctrine, but: “they did not convert to Islam despite much pressure. They were faithful to the recitation of the Rosary. This experience of trial strengthened the faith of everyone including my faith as a priest. It is as if I have been born again”.
Father Jacques’ period of trial finally ended on the 11th of October, when he regained full freedom. He belongs to the monastic community in Deir Mar Musa, founded by the Italian Jesuit Paolo Dall’Oglio – who himself disappeared in July 2013 while in Raqqa, a stronghold of “Islamic State” jihadists. His fate remains unknown. IS continues to imprison and execute scores of Christians and other minorities throughout its captured territory.