Jesuit priests from Karnataka stranded in Afghanistan, kin seek help
MANGALURU: Two Jesuit priests, Fr Jerome Sequeira from Siddakkate near Mangaluru, and Fr P Robert Rodrigues from Thirthahalli, Shivamogga district, are stranded in strife-ridden Afghanistan.
Though Fr Jerome, in an SOS message on Tuesday, said they are safe at the moment, their families back home are worried for their lives, given the horrific situation in the country, which was taken over by the Taliban.
Fr Jerome Sequeira, working as head in-charge of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), an international NGO, in Kabul since January 2021, spoke to his brother Vincent Sequeira over phone on Tuesday morning, and said he is staying in a place near Kabul airport. Vincent told TNIE that he had contacted Jesuits provincial Fr Jerome Cutinha, a native of Kulshekar, who is in touch with MEA officials and the Indian embassy in Afghanistan. “My brother asked us not to worry, and to pray for him. He spoke to me for just one minute and disconnected the call since the situation is chaotic there,” he said.
Fr Robert, who hails from Thirthahalli, was working in Bamiyan, the capital of Bamiyan province in Central Afghanistan. Earlier, in a message, Fr Jerome narrated the horrific scenes emerging from Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan, and how the situation in the country is changing rapidly. “We managed to suspend activities on time and ensured the safety of all our staff. Anyway, safety does not make sense here. It is a chaotic situation,” he said.
Fr Jerome says that he managed to reach Kabul airport on Sunday morning but by then, the Taliban had taken over the airport. “I had to drag my luggage through a large crowd and vehicles on the road. Thousands of people are trying to flee. The Taliban were shooting in the air and trying to control the crowd. People were boarding flights without any security check or boarding passes. It was a terrifying experience.”
He said that Fr Robert went to Bamiyan airport on Saturday, checked in and waited for the UN flight to land. “It takes only 25 minutes from Bamiyan to Kabul. The situation changed dramatically, and the airport security personnel just abandoned the airport. We made sure that Fr Robert is fine and today he is much better and relaxed. We are finding ways to evacuate him from Bamiyan to Kabul with the help of UN agencies,” he said. Fr Sequeira said that though the Taliban are not harming civilians at the moment, things may change for the worse once they fully capture all the systems.