As I browse through my Facebook trying to choose my words wisely before writing this post, I can hardly find any expressions whether in Arabic or in English to describe the face that is showing literally in every post by my Syrian friends.
Pictures of one old man with my friend as a kid; a photograph of the same old man with another friend four years ago; one more scene reveals the old man in good physical shape with a bunch of friends in a camp, climbing the mountain, praying in the church. People were sharing his pictures because that old man died today.
He was a man that reached out and touched the heart of everyone who met him; individuals who never met him and yet saw his videos on YouTube felt the same way; as did those who heard so many of us share our stories and reflections of our time with him. He has became a symbol, a true hero that shall be remembered as we write the history of our country, and the Christian modern history, furthermore, the history of mankind.
Frans Van Der Lugt, a Dutch priest who came to Syria decades ago, learned our language and our traditions and lived with us until he became one of us.
Over the past three years and as the conflict in Syria was rising he remained a voice of peace, calling for peaceful resolution and dialog. Though some encouraged him to return to Europe, the loyal 72 year old man decided that he would remain in the besieged old city of Homs.
Despite the enormous threats and indescribable war zone he was experiencing, he chose to stand with those who couldn’t leave in an attempt to guard what’s left of the Christian and the Human heritage in my hometown.
“I don’t see people as Muslims or Christian, I see a human being first and foremost,” Father Frans said in February 2014.
The Rev. Frans van der Lugt in February. He had insisted on remaining in the war-ravaged Old City district of Homs, where he offered refuge to Muslim and Christian families alike.CreditMohammed Abu Hamza/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
This morning, at the age of 75, a gunman walked into the church where father Frans had taken shelter from the shells – a place which had been sanctuary to Muslims, and Christians, where all were welcomed – and shot him dead ending the life of a true saint.
The pain is great, but so are the values that father Frans has shared during his lifetime. He lived in peace, as a true teacher for all of us Muslims and Christians, and died in peace serving his cause of love and co-existence. His death changed him from a person to an eternal icon, and an icon never dies.
Our charge will be to honor his extraordinary life by seeing and finding the common ties that bring us together as diverse peoples, and to always stand with and for those in their time of need.
May your soul rest in peace, you shall always live in our hearts father, Frans the Syrian Saint.
الرحمة لروحك أبونا فرانس
الرحمة لروحك أبونا فرانس