Priest reveals Muslim, grateful for Church-provided aid,
helped him escape ISIS
By John Pontifex
Father Jacques Mourad, kidnapped by ISIS last May, managed to escape the terrorists with help of a Muslim friend, who acted out of gratitude for the humanitarian aid the priest had provided him and his family.
The monk told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that he had been able to provide such aid thanks to ACN and other relief organizations.
Speaking out after nearly six months of captivity, Fatjer Mourad said that with the help of the friend he escaped the ISIS-held city, Qaratayn on the back of a motorbike—disguised as an Islamist fighter.
The friend—who has links to ISIS—told the priest that he had been impressed by the priest’s humanitarian relief work in Qaratayn, which included the provision of food, shelter and medicine to both Muslims and Christians affected and displaced by the Syrian civil war.
Father Mourad said: “What ACN has done to help us has played a great role in setting me free.”
Father Mourad, whose outreach to Muslims led him to be known as ‘Sheikh Jacques,’ said that when Qaratayn’s water supplies were cut off he helped build a reservoir with the help of ACN.
He said he was convinced that this help had caused ISIS to show leniency toward 150 Christians held hostage in Qaratayn.
Father Mourad—who was prior of the Monastery of Mar Elian in the Syrian town of Al Qaryatayn, about 60 miles southeast of Homs—described how pressure from Muslims in Qaratayn had prompted his return to the city, where he was put under house arrest following 84 days in a prison at ISIS headquarters in Raqqa, in northern Syria.
He said: “One day, one of the ISIS leaders came to me and said: ‘Everybody in Qaratayn has been talking about you, asking for you.’ So he told me to come with him.”
“I was led away—still blindfolded and with hands tied—and I was taken into what seemed like a huge tunnel.”
“They removed my blindfold and I could see my parishioners, gathered in the shelter that ACN had built. It was amazing.”
Recalling his time in prison, Father Mourad said that every day in prison the Islamists threatened to kill him. He added: “I was waiting for the moment when they would come and slit my throat.”
The priest said he was convinced his efforts to remain calm and at peace helped save his life.
“I was very conscious of the prayers of so many people—including the prayers of St. Ignatius of Loyola and Charles de Foucauld,” he said.
He said that his prayer was: “Father, I abandon myself into Your hands; do with me what You will.”
With picture of Father Mourad after his release (© ACN)
Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.