But now they are killing priests, and they are killing priests whose only crime is speaking out against the persecution of innocents. It is time, finally, for us to take a stand, because if a 75-year-old Jesuit has more courage than Uncle Sam and his mighty battalions, we no longer deserve respect in the international community.
Father van der Lugt used his voice as his weapon, speaking out strongly and clearly about the abuses that the Assad regime was committing against its own people (and, more covertly, against the people of Lebanon.) Given an opportunity to escape Syria earlier this year when a U.N.-brokered ceasefire permitted some of the Homs residents to leave, Father van Der Lugt stayed. He stayed because he didn’t want the people who looked to him for spiritual support to feel abandoned, saying, “The Syrian people have given me so much, so much kindness, so much inspiration and everything they have. If the Syrian people are suffering now, I want to share their pain and their difficulties.”
It is perhaps difficult for citizens of this country of rights and privilege to understand what it means to live in a state of war. Many of the older, greatest generation who suffered the collateral privations of World War II have some understanding of what it means to be hungry, but not since the Civil War have bullets ripped through our cities and towns (except, of course, the ones we aim at each other out of twisted criminality).
But even though we may not be able to empathize, we need to sympathize with men, women and most especially children who have slipped from the front pages of the newspapers but who are still behind that “line” President Obama said could not be crossed without responsive action from the United States.