He refused to leave. He knew his place. It was his home.
He refused security. He knew his task. They were his people.
He refused safety. He knew his God. They were His people.
Jesuit Father, Frans van der Lugt had lived in Syria for nearly fifty years and refused safe passage out of the city of Homs. A brief cessation of conflict at the beginning of the year had meant that there was an opportunity for him to leave with the young and wounded but he refused.
He stayed in his monastery to serve the small number of Christians still in the city. He explained his rejection of evacuation in these terms:
‘I don’t see people as Muslims or Christians. I see a human being first and foremost. I am the shepherd of my flock’.
We tried our best. We made it easy. But he would not come.
His flock had scattered. They were hardly there. But he would not leave.
The Call had not been withdrawn. There is a greater love. His Lord was the Way.
Father Frans now joins a path chosen by a long line of Christians who have refused to leave. The intransigent servant of the will of God is an important figure in the story of Christian devotion. They remind us that at the heart of a Christian calling there is humility and obedience. They arrive at a moment in their life when to refuse common sense is the more important thing to do. They resist the advice of those who are deemed to know better. It is the time of the emptying of self as did their Lord.
They do not court admiration. They do not seek to be an example. They carry a cross and live with the consequences.
He spoke our language. He lived our way. We were one.
He looked deep. He became our flesh. We were made whole.
He lived by grace. He died for peace. His blood was shed.
Friend of whom do you speak?
This post was first published in the Baptist Times on the 12 April 2014