NEW DELHI – A Jesuit priest kidnapped in Afghanistan and held for eight months told reporters “God has saved me”, but said he did not want to discuss details of his captivity.
Jesuit Fr Alexis Prem Kumar, kidnapped on June 2 in Afghanistan’s Herat province, was flown to New Delhi from Kabul on Feb 22 with the intervention of the Indian government.
“First of all, I thank God almighty. I thought I would never be safe. God has saved me,” Fr Kumar, 47, told Catholic News Service in an interview at the Ashoka Hotel, where he met with family and friends.
He thanked everyone for their prayers: “the Vatican, the Jesuits, the [Jesuit Refugee Service] and all.”
Fr Kumar said when Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to him: “I felt that the whole of India was welcoming me. I am grateful and thankful to the Jesuits and all others who have worked for my release.”
When media asked the priest to speak about his captivity, he replied, “I want to forget everything for some time.”
“Anything about Afghanistan or what happened, I am not ready to share now. Please pardon me,” he told reporters when the question was repeated.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India welcomed Fr Kumar’s release and thanked Mr Modi “for the efforts taken by him personally and for the many steps adopted by the various agencies of the government of India to secure the safe release of Fr Alexis Prem”.
Mr Modi tweeted as Fr Kumar was being flown to New Delhi: “Delighted at securing the release of Indian Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar from captivity in Afghanistan.”
Fr Kumar had been based in Afghanistan since 2011 and headed the Jesuit Refugee Service there since 2012.
“I am fine. I am ready to go back or go anywhere,” he was heard telling Fr George Pattery, Jesuit South Asia provincial, by phone on his arrival at the hotel room before meeting the media.
“It was hard,” replied Fr Kumar when a fellow Jesuit asked him if he ate properly during captivity. “Let’s forget all that. Let’s rejoice now,” he said. - CNS