Indian Jesuit Released by Taliban

This morning Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed the release of Indian Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar in two comments on his Twitter feed:

“Delighted at securing the release of [Father Prem Kumar] from captivity in Afghanistan.” Later he added, “Have spoken to Father Alexis Prem Kumar. Informed happy family of Father Alexis Prem Kumar of his safe return after 8 months in captivity."

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India’s External Affairs Ministry confirmed Father Prem Kumar’s release from the Taliban. He had been seized last year in western Afghanistan, after a visit to a Jesuit-supported school for the children of returning refugees he supervised as the Afghanistan country representative for Jesuit Refugee Services:

Father Alexis Premkumar Antonysamy, an Indian citizen who was kidnapped on June 2, 2014 from Herat province in western Afghanistan by terrorist elements, has been released.

At the time of his abduction, Father Premkumar was working with the Jesuist Refugee Service, an international NGO, doing work in the educational field in Afghanistan.

The matter of his release has been pursued by our leadership, including at the highest levels the Prime Minister.

We express our deep gratitude to all those who worked tirelessly over the last 8 months to help in this humanitarian task of ensuring the safe release of one of our citizens.

Father Alexis Premkumar is now back in the safety of his homeland and arrangements are being made for him to rejoin his family soon."

"The last eight months have been a long and difficult period of uncertainty for Father Prem's family, friends and colleagues," said Peter Balleis, S.J., J.R.S. International Director, in a statement released to the press. "You cannot imagine our relief that he is now home, safe and sound. We are aware of the tireless efforts at many levels to achieve his release and we are grateful for the consolation we have received from the prayerful support of countless friends—including those of the school children from the school where he was kidnapped."

"Our role in Afghanistan 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," said Stan Fernandes, S.J., J.R.S. Regional Director in South Asia. "We were close to the Afghan people before the abduction of Father Prem and we will continue to accompany them in any way we can."

Before moving to Afghanistan five years ago, Prem Kumar had worked J.R.S. in Sri Lankan, serving refugees living in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

"Our attention now turns to the welfare of Father Prem. All of us will do whatever we can to ensure that Prem receives the necessary attention and support from his family, his Jesuit brothers in the Society of Jesus and his many friends and colleagues in J.R.S.," Father Fernandes said. 

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