Afghanistan, Indian Jesuit freed after eight months in captivity
by Nirmala Carvalho
Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar, head of the Afghan section of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is back in Delhi. The organization expresses "immense gratitude" to the Indian government. Former regional director for South Asia: "Positive sign for the volunteers who work in Afghanistan."

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - After more than eight months after his abduction, Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar, a Jesuit priest of the JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) returned last night to Delhi.

In a statement issued shortly after his release, the organization said it was "immensely grateful" to the Indian government for the role played in the release of Fr. Kumar.

Fr. Louis Prakash SJ, director of the Indian Social Institute (Bangalore), told AsiaNews: "We welcome this great news. It is a very positive sign for the volunteers who work in Afghanistan and who, in the past, have experienced difficult times. His release will also strengthen the relations between our two countries".

Fr. Louis, former director of JRS for South Asia, was personally involved in the negotiations and in "cautious and secrets" efforts to free Fr. Kumar. "In the last two weeks - he tells AsiaNews - there were signs of an imminent release, but only yesterday we were able to rejoice for his release."

On June 2, 2014 p. Kumar, 47, was taken by a group of unidentified men in Herat province, while he was visiting a JRS school. A native of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the Jesuit was the head of JRS Afghanistan and managed educational and health support programs for returnees from Iran and Pakistan.

The JRS has been working in Afghanistan since 2005. Even in the months of Fr. Kumar's captivity, the association continued to carry out its programs, to ensure that local students have access to quality education.

"Our role in Afghanistan - said Fr. Stan Fernandes, current regional JRS director for South Asia - 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".

 

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