International News

Jesuits Keep Afghanistan Schools Open, Despite Missing Director

by Anto Akkara
THRISSUR, India (CNS) – Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is keeping half a dozen schools in troubled Afghanistan running despite no trace of its coordinator in Afghanistan, who was kidnapped in early June.
Indian Jesuit Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who headed the JRS operations in Afghanistan, was abducted by gunmen June 2 at a school run by JRS in Herat province.
“Although we still have not heard from him or his captors, we live in hope. All the information we have continues to suggest that he is alive and he remains in Afghanistan,” Jesuit Father Peter Balleis, international director of JRS, said in a July 7 statement.
“After a brief closure last month, we have just reopened the majority of our educational programs, relying on our able Afghan colleagues to lead this effort,” he said.
“We remain committed to accompany our Afghan students and their families in their desire for quality education, and reopening our schools is a clear sign of that commitment,” he added.
The statement said the school in Sohadat, where Father Kumar was kidnapped, “will reopen upon his release” even as “students and their families in Sohadat pray daily for his release and long for the day when they will see him again in their school.”
The JRS statement also admitted that “the current political situation in Afghanistan, following the presidential elections of last month, may make the process of his release more complicated than we had imagined.”
Reiterating that JRS was doing “everything in our power to ensure” Father Kumar’s safety, Father Balleis expressed the optimism that by the end of Ramadan in late July, his kidnappers would release him as an Eid al-Fitr gift.