Father Jacques Mourad, a Syro-Catholic monk, was held captive by the Islamic State jihadists in 2015 for about five long months, a period of violence, humiliation, mockery, psychological and physical torture, and in which he was threatened with death, having arrived standing before a firing squad. He survived it all, trusting in Our Lady and praying the rosary, which he says was his spiritual weapon.
“As soon as I started to pray the rosary, all the pain, all the fears disappeared. Even today I say the rosary many times, also according to the formulas I invented during my days in captivity.” He managed to escape and now, eight years later, he has been consecrated as Archbishop of Homs. For Christians in Syria, there couldn’t be better news.
Ordained on Friday, March 3rd, as Syro-Catholic Archbishop of Homs, Syria, Archbishop Jacques Mourad is a true symbol of the resistance of the Christian community in Syria, which has been forced to face, over the last decade, the violence of war and terrorism, and also of poverty.
There is, in the history of the new archbishop, born 54 years ago in Aleppo, a date that he will never forget: May 21, 2015. It was on that day that armed men invaded the convent of Mar Elian, of which he was responsible, and dragged him away, as a hostage, along with a young postulant.
After four days, blindfolded and locked in a car, they were taken to Raqqa. Speaking with ACN, he remembered that trip and the closeness he felt in his heart with Our Lady. “On the road to Raqqa, towards the unknown, a phrase resonated within me that helped me to accept what was happening and to entrust myself to the Lord: ‘I am on my way to freedom…’. The presence of the Virgin, Our Mother, and the prayer of the rosary were my spiritual weapon.”
Taken to Raqqa, Jacques Mourad ended up being confined to a cell for 84 days. A time he will never forget. “Almost every day they would come into my cell and ask questions about my faith. Live each day as if it were your last. I was harassed, threatened with beheading on several occasions”. On August 4, 2015, the jihadist group ‘Islamic State’ conquered Al-Qaryatain and, the next day, at dawn, took about 250 Christian hostages who were taken to a region near Palmyra. A few days later, Fr. Mourad was taken to meet this group of hostages.
It was around that time that he began to plan his own escape, which happened on the 10th of October. In a scene almost worthy of an action movie, Jacques Mourad fled from the jihadists by jumping onto a motorcycle driven by a Muslim friend.
When he recalls that episode, he also sees the presence of God and Our Lady there. “With the help of a young Muslim, I managed to leave Al-Qaryatain despite the risks involved. And, again, the merciful hand of God and Our Lady protected and accompanied me.”
SUPPORT FROM ACN
Padre Mourad never understood why they had kidnapped him. But the jihadists knew him well. Mar Elian Monastery was relatively close to the city of Qaratyan and his work was highly appreciated by all. He was a peace builder, a bridge builder between Christians and Muslims. He helped everyone.
For many years,ACN has collaborated with Father Jacques Mourad, as well as with the Christian communities in Syria. Help that gained dimension after the war in 2011. This help has now become even more urgent with the brutal earthquake that hit Syria on the 6th of February. After the violence of the jihadists, after the persecution of Christians, came the destruction of vast regions of Syria. The help of ACN with food baskets, medicines and clothing has proved once again essential for the survival of the Christian people.
“From the bottom of my heart, I thank the benefactors of the ACN for the solidarity they have shown to the suffering Syrian people. We ask that you continue to help us and pray for us.”