UN chief condemns Dutch priest death in Syria

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has denounced the murder of a prominent Dutch priest in the Syrian city of Homs as an “inhumane act of violence.”

Frans van der Lugt, 75, who was known for his insistence on staying in Homs despite the deadly violence in the city, was shot dead by a masked gunman on Monday.

Ban’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a Tuesday statement that the UN chief “demands that warring parties and their supporters ensure that civilians are protected, regardless of their religion, community or ethnic affiliation.”

“Both the Syrian government and armed groups have the legal obligation and moral responsibility to do so,” the statement from Ban’s office added.

According to Jan Stuyt, secretary of the Dutch Jesuit Order, Van der Lugt was killed by a man who “came into his house, took him outside and shot him twice in the head. In the street in front of his house.” He noted that the 75-year-old would be buried in Syria “according to his wishes.”

Van der Lugt arrived in Syria in 1966. He lived in a Jesuit monastery and helped poor families — Muslims and Christians alike.

“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,” he had said.

Some 1.8 million Christians reside in Syria, making up about 10 percent of the country’s population. The religious minority has been subjected to numerous attacks by extremist groups since the outbreak of violence in the country in March 2011.

Over 150,000 people have reportedly been killed and millions displaced due to the violence fueled by Western-backed militants in Syria.

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