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Indian Jesuit priest kidnapped in Afghanistan , "a life in service of marginalized"

Fr. Victor Edwin SJ , a native of Tamil Nadu like the victim, speaks to AsiaNews about Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar SJ and his work among the Sri Lankan refugees and the Dalits in South India. According to the Afghan police six armed men kidnapped the Jesuit, but no one has claimed responsibility, nor asked for ransom. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS ) suspends operations in Afghanistan. The appeal of Fr. Alexis’ family.

Kabul ( AsiaNews) - "His entire life as a Jesuit was happily spent in the service of Jesus for the 'other' especially the disadvantaged and those deprived of human dignity". This is how Fr Victor Edwin SJ , a doctoral student of Christian Islam relations at the renowned Jamia Islamia University, New Delhi, describes Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar SJ, the priest kidnapped in in the province of Herat Afghanistan June 2, to AsiaNews. There is still no news about the kidnap, no-one has claimed responsibility and no ransom has been demanded so far.

The deputy police chief of Herat, Mohammad Nadir Fahimi, that "six gunmen" had abducted Premkumar and may have taken him to Gulran district. He said authorities are working with "district elders" to try to mediate his release.  "We are trying to get him to safety," Herat's Provincial Governor Fazelullah Wahidi was quoted as saying.

Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar is the director of the Afghan section of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) , an international Catholic NGO run by the Society of Jesus, which has suspended its activities in Afghanistan. Fr. Peter Balleis, SJ, director of the international NGO , said he was "deeply shocked by the kidnapping", adding that "our prayers are with him, his family and his friends".

Originally from Devakkottai (Sivaganga district, Tamil Nadu), Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar, 47, is the eldest of five children. His father Anthony, 77, his brother Albert Manohar and his sister Elizabeth have called for the intervention of the State and central governments. "He used to talk to us frequently over phone from there - says Anthony, a retired teacher - and always said that there was no problem for him though activities of militants were there. Let us all pray for his safe return".

Ordained to the priesthood in 2000, Fr. Alexis spent seven years with the JRS in Tamil Nadu, working among the Sri Lankan refugees in the state. Fr. Victor Edwin, also from Tamil Nadu, told AsiaNews : "Fr Alexis ran for six years, the People's Education and Action in Kodaikanal (Peak), a community center for the human rights of Paliyar refugee settlement".

Fr. Edwin also recalls that " in the village of Puthupur he led a campaign against the discrimination of dalits who were not allowed to fetch water from the village well. At Puthuputhur the news of his abduction shocked the dalit community which has planned to petition the government seeking efforts to rescue him".

Fr. Alexis has been in Afghanistan for four years.