There is little food or hope left in Syria’s besieged Old City of Homs. But an elderly Dutch priest has remained there in solidarity with the Syrians he considers countrymen.
Father Frans van der Lugt has spent nearly five decades in Syria, a country he loves so dearly that he considers it his own, although he was born in The Netherlands.
Despite crushing hardship in Homs, where residents face a daily struggle to find food and the Christian population has dwindled to a few dozen, the thought of leaving could not be further from his mind.
“I’m the head of the monastery, how could I leave it? How could I leave the Christians behind? It would be impossible,” he told AFP in an interview over Skype.
“The Syrian people have given me so much, so much kindness, inspiration and everything they have. If the Syrian people are suffering now, I want to share their pain and their difficulties.”
Father Frans, a Jesuit, arrived in Syria in 1966 after spending two years in Lebanon studying Arabic.
At 75, his eyes still sparkle behind his glasses as he talks, and he smiles as he describes his relationship with his adopted home.
But he describes soberly the suffering of the estimated 3,000 people left in Homs’s Old City, under a suffocating army siege and daily regime bombardment.
“You see a man of 20 who says ‘I’m hungry’, but we have nothing,” he said.
“We’ve gotten to the point where we’re eating air.”
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