Afghanistan: Indian Jesuit released after eight months in captivity

by James Stapleton | @JesuitRefugee | Jesuit Refugee Service International
Monday, 23 February 2015 09:31 GMT

Fr Alexis Prem Kumar, a year before his abduction in June 2014 (Jesuit Refugee Service)

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Rome, 22 February 2015 – After more than eight months in captivity, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is delighted by the announcement of the release of Fr Alexis Prem Kumar. JRS is immensely grateful to the Indian government for its role in achieving his release.

"The last eight months have been a long and difficult period of uncertainty for Fr Prem's family, friends and colleagues. You cannot imagine our relief that he is now home, safe and sound. We are aware of the tireless efforts at many levels to achieve his release and we are grateful for the consolation we have received from the prayerful support of countless friends – including those of the school children from the school where he was kidnapped," said Fr Peter Balleis SJ, JRS International Director.

On 2 June 2014, Fr Kumar was taken by a group of unidentified men in western Afghanistan while on a visit to a JRS-supported school for returnee refugees in a settlement 34km from the city of Herat. The forty-seven year old Jesuit, from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, was about to return to Herat when he was forced at gunpoint into a vehicle by a group of armed men.

JRS has worked in Afghanistan since 2005. Even during the difficult months of Fr Prem's captivity, however, JRS continued to run its programmes in the country in order to ensure that Afghan students had continued access to quality education.

"Our role in Afghanistan has been to help displaced persons and their host communities, to offer them education and skills so they can rebuild their lives and those of their communities. We were close to the Afghan people before the abduction of Fr Prem and we will continue to accompany them in any way we can" said Fr Stan Fernandes, JRS Regional Director in South Asia.

Before moving to Afghanistan five years ago, Prem Kumar had worked for the Jesuit Refugee Service, serving Sri Lankan refugees living in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. At the time of his kidnapping, he was the JRS Afghanistan Director.

"Our attention now turns to the welfare of Fr Prem. All of us will do whatever we can to ensure that Prem receives the necessary attention and support from his family, his Jesuit brothers in the Society of Jesus, and his many friends and colleagues in JRS," Fr Fernandes emphasised.

Information to editors
The Jesuit Refugee Service is an international Catholic organisation with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of forcibly displaced persons. With its headquarters based in Rome and with teams working in nearly 50 countries around the world, JRS provides education, health, social and other services to approximately 950,000 refugees and internally displaced persons, more than half of whom are women. JRS services are provided to refugees regardless of race, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.

For further information
James Stapleton
International Communications Coordinator
Jesuit Refugee Service
Tel: +39 06 69868 605; +39 346 234 3841

Stanislaus Fernandes SJ
Jesuit Refugee Service South Asia
Tel.: +91 986 886 2860; +91 11 2463 5372