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Praying with Refugees in Afghanistan: even after the darkest night there will be a new day
Friday, August 01, 2014

Fr Alexis Prem Kumar S.J.

(Rome) August 1, 2014 — Two months have passed since Fr Alexis Prem Kumar S.J., the Jesuit Refugee Service Afghanistan director, was abducted by a group of armed men from a JRS-sponsored school in Sohadat, a government township for returnee families, 35 kilometers from Herat city in western Afghanistan. 

These past weeks have been a painful time for Prem’s family, his Jesuit confreres across the world, and for all of us at JRS. Although we still have not heard from him or his captors, we keep hope alive. 

We meet daily to process any new information and to discuss our next steps. All our information suggests that he is alive and remains in Afghanistan. While Sohadat school will remain closed until Prem is released, we re-opened the majority of our educational programs in early July, relying on our able Afghan colleagues to lead this effort. We remain committed to accompany our Afghan students and their families in their desire for quality education; re-opening our schools is a clear sign of that commitment.  

Prem's abduction has been an experience of utter powerlessness for Prem and of great concern for those who care deeply for him. His agony is being shared by his family, his friends and his colleagues in JRS.

This situation reminds me of Jesus praying at the Mount of Olives in deep distress about what might happen to him. He prayed that the chalice of his suffering and death might pass him, but he accepted the will of the Father. Soon after, his captors came and took him away.

Peter Balleis S.J., Jesuit Refugee Service Director

Reflections for Prayer

Six armed men took him away in a van. Where he is now? We do not know. How is he?  We do not know. Is he in agony and fear? We share his agony and fear. It is a very dark moment of powerlessness and deep concern for our colleague, Prem.

Prem's desire was simple: to do good. He believed in educating children—all children—and found joy in seeing them attend Sohadat school and the other education projects throughout Afghanistan.

Now we wonder: What does he see now? Is he being kept in a dark place? The darkness of this destructive act affects us all — Prem, the children and their parents in Sohadat, and JRS team members.

And while we experience misery, we also experience the goodness of so many people around the world. Prem’s Christian and Muslim friends are praying for his wellbeing and his release. Community members in Sohadat, and especially the children of Sohadat school are praying with their teachers and parents for his release. They want their school to open again; they want a place where they can learn and play in security.

We join them all in our hopes and prayers for Fr Alexis Prem Kumar. Goodness will prevail.  Even after the darkest night there will be a new day and new light.

Suggested Reading for Prayer

Luke 22: 39-47, 54

Then going out he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.

When he arrived at the place he said to them, "Pray that you may not undergo the test." 

After withdrawing about a stone's throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done."

And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him.

He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.)

When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. 

He said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test."

While he was still speaking, a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him.

After arresting him they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance.