Jesuit relief worker released from captivity in Afghanistan

Indian priest was living in Afghanistan at the time of his capture, working as the Afghan director of the Jesuit Refugee Service.

February 23, 2015 14:48
1 minute read.

Refugees in Afganistan that the JRS works with. (photo credit: JESUIT REFUGEE SERVICE)

A Jesuit Catholic priest from India was released from captivity in Afghanistan on Sunday and has now returned back home with his family and loved ones after being kidnapped while working with refugees in the city of Herat.

Father Alexis Prem Kumar was living in Afghanistan at the time of his capture on June 2, 2014, working as the Afghan director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). He was captured by a group of unidentified men in Western Afghanistan while visiting a school for returning refugees outside the city of Herat.

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Sparse details have been revealed about his time in captivity, but JRS said that Kumar was at one point forced to return to the city after being accosted at gunpoint by a cohort of armed men.

While missing, the JRS had teams on the ground in Dehli, Rome and Afghanistan working for Kumar's release.

Sunday's release was organized by the Indian Authority, but all details remain undisclosed.

“There are many different groups in Afghanistan. We don't know who captured him, anything we say now would just be a guess,” JRS International Communications Coordinator director James Stapleton told The Jerusalem Post.

In Afghanistan the JRS Has projects in three cities. Most projects concern teacher training, education and income training. Kumar oversaw all projects in Afghanistan, monitored their progress and also served as a liaison with the local governments government. Prior to his capture, the JRS considered Kumar’s project in Herat to be relatively safe.

“We’ve always had security policies operating,” Stapleton told the Post.” If you asked us three months before Kumar was kidnapped we would tell you that Herat is safe, but  the situation has changed since. We are now trying to have a better handle on gathering information and security assessments in the region.”

Prior to moving to Afghanistan five years ago, the Indian Christian worked for the Jesuit Refugee Service in southern India, helping  Sri Lankan refugees.

“Its too early to say whether he'll return to his role in Afghanistan,” Stapleton said. “He got back to India yesterday. What’s important right now is for him to meet with his family and take in what's happened.”

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