An Indian Jesuit priest is praising God for his freedom after suffering for over eight months while under the captivity of the Islamic extremist group the Taliban.
Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who was working as the Afghanistan country director for the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Herat province at the time of his abduction, was released and reached New Delhi on Feb. 22 with the intervention of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to the Catholic Herald.
"First of all, I thank God Almighty. I thought I would be never safe. God has saved me," Father Kumar told World Watch Monitor, in an interview following his release. He also thanked Prime Minister Modi and the government for "taking [a] lot of efforts for my release and millions who prayed for my release."
"The Prime Minister spoke to me. When he was speaking I felt that the whole of India was welcoming me. I am grateful and thankful to the Jesuit and all others who have worked for my release," Father Kumar said.
The AP reports that the 47 year old Priest was accompanying teachers on a visit to a JRS-supported school for returnee refugees in Sohadat village when he was kidnapped by the gunmen. Although the militant's motive remains unknown, the Times of India in its report on his release hinted to a "burgeoning kidnapping industry in Afghanistan" which has worsened "due to inherent differences within the Unity government of Afghanistan." The report also emphasized that most abductions by an extremist group ended either in payment of a large ransom--or killing of the hostage.
When asked about his time in captivity, the Priest, who looked weak and thin, responded, "I want to forget everything for some time."
"Anything about Afghanistan or what happened (to me), I am not ready to share now. Please pardon me...I have plenty of stories (to share). But I feel it is not the right time to share all those about the time (I spent in captivity)," he said.
However, Father Kumar pointed out: "Though I had my troubles and hard times, I feel proud that I am an Indian citizen and the country will take care of me."
Father Peter Balleis SJ, JRS's International Director, told the Catholic Herald that the NGO was also very grateful to Prime Minister Modi for helping to secure Father Kumar's release.
"The last eight months have been a long and difficult period of uncertainty for Fr Prem's family, friends and colleagues," he said.
"You cannot imagine our relief that he is now home, safe and sound. We are aware of the tireless efforts at many levels to achieve his release and we are grateful for the consolation we have received from the prayerful support of countless friends - including those of the school children from the school where he was kidnapped."
Despite his horrific experience, Father Kumar says he will never stop working to help others in need-even if it means risking his life.
"I will continue to work with people who are neglected and who have lost hope wherever I am sent," the Priest said.