“WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?” – A LENTEN INITIATIVE FOR SCHOOLS. Invite your students to reflect on their relationship with God, with their neighbor, and with the Earth.

To commemorate the fifth anniversary (april 7th) of the murder of the Dutch jesuit father Frans van der Lugt  in Homs (Syria) the Jesuits in the Netherlands and Flanders have made a video animation. It is dedicated to the life and death of father Frans, and to his message of reconciliation. Here is more information about the video animation and about Fr. Frans shared by Fr Nikolaas Sintobin SJ.

7 April 2019 will mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Dutch Jesuit Frans van der Lugt, who was murdered in Homs, Syria. The two shots fired were fatal. Van der Lugt sj died at the age of 75.

To honour Father Frans, the Jesuits in the Netherlands and Flanders have produced an animated film about him. The film is available in 9 languages, including English and Arabic.

In the film, Van der Lugt sj has his say for a final time. He makes an urgent appeal to every human being to never give the last word to hatred, but to fight for love. “To my last gasp, I hoped that the hate, conflict and pain would stop”.

In the months before his death, Frans van der Lugt sj called on the international community to end the war and send food. His powerful video messages were shown worldwide in many news programmes. His brutal death came as a shock.

In the animation, the fictional voice of Jesuit Van der Lugt looks back on the abrupt end of his life. On the one hand he has hope, on the other there is his own death. “As if everything has stopped. And yet it keeps going. Yes, it keeps on going.” That is his firm conviction. For: “it is love that keeps on going. Nobody should be discouraged.”

Father Frans lived in a besieged part of the Syrian city of Homs. While the bombs fell, people around him died of hunger. What began as a siege of at most a few days, ended in months of being trapped. A few days after the murder of Van der Lugt sj, the inhabitants of Homs were able to leave the besieged district under the auspices of the United Nations.

Why did Frans van der Lugt sj stay in Syria?

In the animation film he says: “Despite the hunger and violence, I never thought about leaving our besieged neighbourhood in Homs. Our neighbourhood is no bigger than a square kilometre. Yet Muslims and Christians from all backgrounds live together peacefully. Our way of living here, this was the Syria I knew. I couldn’t give up on that.”

That sums up the spirituality of Frans van der Lugt sj. What drove him was love for Syria and the Syrian people. Although he was a Catholic priest, he made no distinction between Christians and Muslims. He tried to help everyone and spread a message of hope.

What is the situation now in Homs?

Five years after the death of Father Frans, Jesuits are living again in Homs. There are currently four Jesuits living in the house where Van der Lugt sj was murdered and where he is buried. Many people come to pray at his grave. Although the streets and buildings around the Jesuit community have been seriously damaged, the Jesuits organise homework classes and hundreds of young people and adults use the church. Under their leadership, a large group of ‘Foi et Lumière’, for young people with disabilities, flourishes in Homs.

Father Frans in the years before the Syrian civil war

Father Frans was known in Syria for his hiking. For days he travelled with young people through rough terrain and covered substantial distances. Borders were explored, physically and mentally. They danced, sang, talked, and reflected. Thousands of young people, Muslims and Christians, took part in these walks. In Germany and the Netherlands in recent years Syrian youngsters have organised various treks under the name “Frans’ hike”.

Before the civil war started, Van der Lugt sj worked in Al Ard, a centre set up by him for the care of disabled children. There were vineyards and Father Frans offered psychotherapy. He had to leave the centre when the war made the work impossible. Al Ard has suffered a lot in the intervening years. At the moment it is still too dangerous to consider reconstruction.


About the animation film:
Animator: Rens Wegerif
Illustrator: Jedi Noordegraaf (Studio Vandaar)
Monologue author: Rick Timmermans
Project coordinator: Nikolaas Sintobin SJ

About the music:
Most of the soundtrack was composed by Syrian percussionist Modar Salama. Salama experienced the civil war in Syria at first hand. He knew father Frans personally. 

The animated film is available in the following languages:
Dutch, English, Arabic, French, German, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese and Italian (Click for an overview).

For interviews or additional information, please contact us:
– Nicholas Sintobin sj – nikolaas.sintobin@jesuits.net – +31.637.1566.68
– Jan Stuyt sj – socius.elc@jezuieten.org – +32.490.4456.36
– Rick Timmermans – rick.timmermans@gmail.com – +31.644.5037.87

High resolution images:

Much more information about Frans van der Lugt sj can be found at www.fransvanderlugt.org (Dutch) of www.fransvanderlugt.net (English).