Dutch Priest Shot Dead in Homs as 'War on Christians' Continues
A 75-year-old Jesuit priest was beaten and shot dead by armed men in Homs, Syria on Monday, after he had insisted on staying in the war-torn country to help the poor and feed the hundreds starving in the beleaguered city.
Father Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch national who had worked in Syria since 1966, was dedicated to helping "Christians and Muslims - anyone in need," according to Father Giuseppe Bellucci, head of the Jesuits' press office.
Belluci said that information on the murder is scarce. The exact group - rebel or Syrian army - responsible for the murder remains unknown.
The war against Christians in Syria is not a new one.
In December, Syrian rebels captured the historic Christian town of Maalula, reportedly kidnapping 12 nuns. Meanwhile Islamist rebels publicly beheaded a Catholic priest in July, in the northern Syrian town Idlib.
One Christian leader told BBC that a third of Syria's Christians have fled the country, joining the 2.2 million refugees of the bloody conflict.
Father Van der Lugt's case is particularly relevant to what some have charged to be a "war against Christians" in the Middle East, and especially in Syria.
He is a relatively well-known Christian figure in the country, after he appealed to the international community for humanitarian aid in Homs in a YouTube video posted in January.
"There has been no food. People are hungry and waiting for help," the Dutch priest told Catholic News Service in February. "No injured people have been allowed to leave. Families have been hoping to get out of the siege and out of the fighting between the two sides."
"The wounded have not received proper treatment, so healing has been difficult," he continued. "Newborns die very quickly because of a lack of milk," he said. "There have been cases of death due to hunger and starvation."
The UN launched a full-scale aid and evacuation mission in Homs in February, which saw at least 1,300 leave in a mass exodus. UN forces themselves came under fire during the aid mission, and aid workers - as well as reporters at the scene - confirmed the Dutch priest's accounts of severe starvation in the city.