|Afghanistan: four months on, hope remains alive for the safe return of Jesuit Refugee Service director|
Dear students and friends of Prem,
Delhi, 3 October 2014 – Yesterday, the 2 October marked four long months since Alexis Prem Kumar – serving with the Jesuit Refugee Service – was abducted by a group of armed men from a JRS-supported school in Sohadat, a government township for returnee families, 35 km from Herat city in western Afghanistan.
Committed to the children of Afghanistan, JRS has resumed all its formal and non-formal education programmes, including Sohadat school. Coming from a family of teachers in a tiny south Indian village, this is surely what Prem would want.
The teachers and students at Sohadat school and JRS training centres now begin their day with a prayer for the "kind Indian aid-worker" whom they miss terribly. On the day their school reopened, they made a special appeal: "give us back Mr Prem, a person we love, who took care of our education with deep dedication and compassion".
They believe he is safe somewhere in Afghanistan. Yet with no confirmed news of his captors or whereabouts, Prem's aged-father, brothers and sisters, and the many from India, Afghanistan and across the world who know and love him are rightly concerned for his health and safety.
Prem came as a dedicated teacher, a good man, a man of peace, to serve others to the best of his ability, bringing hope of a brighter future to the children and youth of Afghanistan. As we prepare to celebrate World Teachers' Day and Eid al-Adha on 5 and 6 October in Afghanistan, we ask those holding Prem captive to heed our plea and release him without delay.
The peaceful transition of power to a new government in Afghanistan on 29 September holds the promise of new a beginning. We urge the new government to take all measures possible to bring Prem back. We thank those who have tirelessly worked for his release under difficult circumstances. With all who hold him dear, we pray that Prem will soon be back, with his cheerful smile and compassionate heart, so that many more may come to share his dream of a brighter future for the children of Afghanistan.
Thank you for your support and solidarity,
Stan Fernandes SJ
JRS South Asia Director