Posts Tagged ‘Jesuit Father Theo Vlugt’

Dutch Jesuits Reflect on War-Time Service to Beirut Catholics

They regularly had to dodge the bullets during Lebanon’s civil war. But, while many people were fleeing the country, four Dutch Jesuits stayed to carry on with their work. During a recent ordination Jubilee celebration, they took a break from the festivities to take a look back at their wartime service.

The four tenacious Dutch clerics were celebrating their 50th anniversaries as Roman Catholic priests and their 60th anniversaries as members of the Jesuit order. Their time in Lebanon has meant that Jesuit Fathers Theo Vlugt, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Paul Brouwers and Michael Brenninkmeijer have become devoted to the country.

“If you make yourself at home somewhere, it becomes your home. It’d take us a long time to get used to the Netherlands again,” Fr. Brouwers explains. He, like his colleagues, is in his eighties. For years, he headed a successful Beirut publisher.

Fr. Theo Vlugt, who was born and bred in Amsterdam, sometimes had to eat tinned brown beans for weeks on end during the long and bloody civil war (1975–1990). “I occasionally think back and ask myself: did it really happen?” He was often seen by Dutch people as the face of Lebanon during the civil war.

For instance during the ‘One million for a shoe’ appeal in 1989, which raised three million Dutch guilders to buy shoes for Lebanese children. The campaign was inspired by Vlugt who headed a primary school in a poor district of Beirut. “They sometimes came to school with plastic bags tied round their feet,” he explains.

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