Father Francis Van Der Lugt is, says Father Jan Stuyt, “like a martyr for the interreligious dialogue.” In fact, he is a vivid illustration of why interreligious dialogue is fruitless. The Muslims with whom Father Francis Van Der Lugt was talking and had good relations were not those who murdered him, and clearly they did not have any influence, or did not care to exercise any influence, over the one who did. “Interreligious dialogue” in the West consists of an endless streams of meetings and conferences in paneled board rooms and official statements that do nothing whatsoever to stop the Islamic jihadists who are brutalizing Christians in accord with commands in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
“Father Francis Van Der Lugt Dead In Syria: Dutch Jesuit Priest Killed By Gunman In Homs,” by Albert Aji for the Associated Press, April 7:
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A masked gunman assassinated a well-known, elderly Dutch priest on Monday, shooting him in the head in the garden of a monastery where he lived in the central Syrian city of Homs on Monday, a fellow priest, an activist group and Syria’s state-run media said.
Father Francis Van Der Lugt — a Jesuit, the same order as Pope Francis — had lived in Syria for decades and had refused to be evacuated with other civilians from the battleground city of Homs.
The motives for the attack were not known, and no one immediately claimed responsibility for the killing, which took place in Bustan al-Diwan, rebel-held neighborhood of Homs that has been blockaded for over a year by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
But the fact that Van Der Lugt was gunned down in a rebel-held area will likely underscore fears of many in Syrian Christian and Muslim minorities for the fate of their communities should Assad’s government be overthrown by the rebels. Over the past year, hard-line rebel groups, including the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front have become more influential and dominant among the opposition fighters in the city.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the 75-year-old Van Der Lugt, was “a man of peace, who with great courage, had wanted to remain faithful, in an extremely risky and difficult situation, to the Syrian people to whom he had dedicated, for a long time, his life and spiritual service.”
It appeared that Van Der Lugt was directly targeted. A single gunman walked into the monastery, entered the garden and shot him in the head, said Rev. Ziad Hillal, a priest, who was in the convent when the attacked occurred.
“I am truly shocked. A man of peace has been murdered,” Hillal said in a phone interview from Homs with the Vatican Radio.
Van der Lugt’s death was first reported by Homs-based priest Assad Nayyef, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the state-run news agency, SANA.
An activist based in a blockaded rebel-area said rebel fighters were shocked by the priest’s death.
“The man was living with us, eating with us, sleeping with us. He didn’t leave, even when the blockade was eased,” said Beibars Tilawi said via Skype. Regardless of the rebels’ views toward Christians, the priest was well-liked for his efforts to get the blockade lifted and alleviate widespread suffering and hunger among civilians, Tilawi said.
In Belgium, the secretary of the Dutch Jesuit order Father Jan Stuyt said the slain priest had been living in Syria since the mid-1960s and was on good terms with the country’s Muslim majority.
“He is like a martyr for the interreligious dialogue,” Father Jan Stuyt said in a telephone interview with AP in Brussels….