08/17/2021, 14.41
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Stranded in an unimaginable chaos, two Indian Jesuits are grateful for prayers

by Nirmala Carvalho

Fr Jerome Sequeira works for the Jesuit Refugee Service, which has suspended all its activities. He and a fellow Jesuit are safe, but the Taliban “will come once they have fully captured all of the country. They have a list of all organisations”. Fr Robert Rodrigues is still in Bamiyan, in the central region. Jesuits in South Asia are in “contact with UN agencies for their evacuation.”

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Two Indian Jesuits working for the Jesuit Refugee Service in Afghanistan are doing well but are still stranded in the country, this according to Fr Jerome Sequeira, in a message to his friends picked up by the Matters India news agency.

“Thank you for your continuous prayers for our safety,” writes Fr Sequeira, from Jharkhand who came to Afghanistan in 2006. The “situation is changing in the country;” the chaos “is beyond anyone’s imagination,” he adds. “I have never seen such a breakdown in the past 15 years.”

The clergyman tried to fly out to India yesterday but was forced to turn back. For now, he is "safe". His fellow Jesuit, Fr Robert Rodrigues, a native of Karnataka, is still in Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan.

In his letter, Fr Sequeira explains that on Sunday evening, his confrere was already at the airport waiting for a UN plane for a 25-minute flight to Kabul. However, it never took off because the airport staff suddenly left the airport.

"We are seeking possible ways to evacuate him from Bamiyan to Kabul through the help of UN agencies,” Fr Sequeira explains.

For now, “Both are safe,” says Fr Stany D'Souza, president of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia. “We are in contact with them. We have set up a crisis unit with international experts.

“We meet regularly to take stock of the situation and offer moral support to Fr Jerome and Fr Robert. We will take all the necessary steps to get them back to India as soon as possible.”

In his letter, Fr Sequeira adds that right now the Taliban are busy seizing government institutions.

“They are not harming civilians but they will come once they have fully captured all of the country’s institutions. They have a list of all organisations and profiles too. In some places, they have started door-to-door enquiries about staff”.

For its part, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has indefinitely suspended its activities in Afghanistan: “Everyone is holed up in homes or communities.”

“All flights have been cancelled. It all depends on agreements between UN bodies and the Taliban. The entire JRS staff is putting all efforts to evacuate me and Father Robert.”

The Jesuits have been in Afghanistan since 2004 to help the population rebuild the country education.

They have trained more than 300 teachers who are educating 25,000 children in four provinces, with a special focus on internal refugees and other vulnerable groups.

Girls are among the main beneficiaries. Until 2001, under Taliban rule, they were subjected to many restrictions.

“I have worked with Father Jerome from 2009 to 2011,” said Fr James Dabhi, also a Jesuit at the Centre for Culture and Development in Gujarat, speaking to AsiaNews.

“I taught at the University of Herat,” he noted, while Fr Jerome “went to the remotest areas. We are all waiting for his safe return.”

Until a days ago, Fr Sequeira reiterated his commitment to "accompany and give hope in any way we can to those who suffer, while uncertainty and nervousness become more and more palpable.”

The Jesuits remained in Afghanistan even after Fr Alexis Prem Kumar was abducted on 2 June 2014, probably by the Taliban. He was released in February 2015 after the intervention of the Indian government.

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See also
The Jesuit Refugee Service celebrates its 25th anniversary
Mahmoud, Roula, Zozan, stories from refugees: from war to new life
20/06/2018 14:41
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Jesuits open school in Herat with government’s blessing


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