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In Honour of Frans van der Lugt, a Man of Kindness, Gentleness and Peace

Last week in the newsletter of one of Christian Horizons's sister organizations;  L'Arche Daybreak; I read of the murder of Dutch Jesuit priest, Frans van der Lugt; co-founder of L'arche Al-Safina; south west of the Old City of Homs, Syria. The 75 year old priest was shot dead on April 7. 

He was a man of gentleness and peace who had lived in Syria for 50 years and was the last European remaining in the old city of Homs, which has been under siege for some time.

He was given a 50 acre parcel of land about 10 years ago, on which he grew vegetables and had a vineyard. He loved animals, grew wildflowers and refused to use pesticides. There he founded the Al-Ard institute, where handicapped children of all religions found a place. 

Every morning, he used to make a circuit of the nearby villages in his old VW van, collecting young people with disabilities from their families and bringing them to the farm where he had created a space where they could work together as part of "a community that values everybody." This was in a culture in which people with disabilities are often hidden away in shame.
People with exceptional needs belong to communities in which their God-given gifts are valued and respected.(Christian Horizons' Vision Statement.)

He refused to leave, even when a UN supervised operation began in February to evacuate 1400 people from the city. He told his brother in Amsterdam that leaving the Syrian people, with whom he identified with in their pain and suffering, was unthinkable, as a shepherd could not leave his sheep.He stayed and shared the hunger of those under siege as they lived with ever dwindling resources of food, scavenging for survival in primitive conditions.

In an article written by Elise Harris for CNA (Catholic News Agency,) she quotes Wael Salibi, a 26 year old friend of Frans van der Lugt: "He changed the lives of thousands of people...he taught us the meaning of love not just with words, but with life."

I had not known of Frans vander Lugt before his death; but his life--and death--inspire me and I write about him so that others will know of his life.

Today Dave Hingsburger wrote a blessing for a young friend of his, on his blog. It was titled, Ruby's First Communion. With his permission I share part of it here, for when I read it, it struck me that the spirit in which Frans vander Lugt lived his life, is what Dave prayed for Ruby; and that is something beautiful.

Today, Ruby, you take
and you make a promise of
Communion with God
Communion with the people of God
Communion with your faith
Communion with your fellows
You taste with your tongue
Your promise
Your promise to be
With God
With People
Your promise to be
The hands of God
The voice of compassion
You promise to
Walk into the desert
With kindness to offer
You promise to
Meet the bitter
With sweet
The hard
with gentle touch
and warm welcome
It is not easy for us, Ruby,
To remember God
In our hearts
It is not easy for anyone, Ruby,
To turn the other cheek
Rather than be the one that strikes it
But I pray, Ruby,
That as you grow
You hold on tight
To the little girl
Who used three year old hands
To help me put the footrests on my wheelchair
To the little girl
Who dropped her change
In the homeless woman's cup
To the little girl
Who super soaked
The crowd at the pride parade
Hold on tight
To the little girl
Who loves to help
Hold on tight
To the little girl
Who is unafraid of diversity
Hold on tight
Don't let go
Of what you know now
You know that
The world is made
Of difference
That the world is made
Of the diversity
Of colour and of texture
That the world is made
By God
Who loves what was made
And you know
that today as you eat
at the table of God
That you promise
To be in Gods world
To do what God puts into your heart
That you promise
To be the oasis
Not the desert
That's a big promise
But you have a big heart
Where God has always lived.   


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