Frans van der Lugt sj (1938-2014)
Frans (Franciscus Joseph Wilhelmus) van der Lugt was born in The Hague on April 10, 1938. From 1951 to 1953 he was a student at the Aloysiuscollege in The Hague, but completed his secondary school days in Amsterdam at the Ignatiuscollege because the van der Lugt family moved to the capital. On September 7, 1959, Frans entered the Jesuits in Grave and then completed a philosophy study in Nijmegen. After his studies, he left for Lebanon in 1964 to study Arabic in Bikfaya and later complete it in Homs in Syria. Frans didn't think he was wise enough yet so he studied theology and psychology in Lyon, France. On May 29, 1971, he was consecrated as a priest by Bishop Ted Zwartkruis in the Lucaskerk (church) in Amsterdam-Osdorp. In 1976 he became group leader at boarding school Katwijk de Breul in Zeist to complete his psychotherapy studies. All his studies and theses were aimed at "young people" as he liked to guide this group of people towards an independent future. In 1982 Frans had himself transferred from the Dutch province to the Near East. From 1987 to 1993, Frans was Superior of the Saint Paul residence in Damascus, student pastor at the university, chaplain of the Communities of Christian Life (GCL) and coordinator of the retreat work. On October 1, Frans returned to the residence Saint Francois Regis in Homs to continue this work. He also taught in Homs and gave shelter to the mentally weak.
In 1996 he founded the Al Ard ("The Estate") project in Al-Qusayr, 35 kilometers outside of Homs. Al Ard consisted of fifty hectares of land where he grew vegetables, had a vineyard with a production of 50,000 bottles a year and there was an olive grove to make olive oil. Later, sports fields, a reception center for people with disabilities and a hostel for tourists were added. Together with 40 people with a mental disability, Frans kept the Al Ard project running. At the weekend there was a regular program of yoga, meditation, discussion groups and walks, especially aimed at young people. Everyone was welcome regardless of disability, sexual preference, ethnic background and / or religion.
Return to Homs
In 2011 Frans van der Lugt returned to Homs, because of the war that had already broken out, Al Ard had become too dangerous. When Homs threatens to be besieged, Van der Lugt remains, despite repeated requests to leave. In January 2014, he asked for help for the population of the now besieged city with a video message on YouTube. Frans insisted on staying with his people to offer them a listening ear and help.
"I have become a Syrian. I have received a lot from Syria, and now I also want to suffer with the people who are struggling. I would like to be a source of comfort for them, if possible. I am the shepherd of my sheep. You don't ask someone who's at home why he stays? ", Says Frans van der Lugt
He was murdered and burried in the Jesuit residence in Homs on 7 April 2014. To date it is not clear who killed him.
In memory of Frans and to continue his vision, a Frans van der Lugt Center has been established in Lebanon for Syrian refugees. A center that has also been established in Karfoon in Syria and is also being built in Homs with our help. In addition, Al Ard will be rebuilt.