Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, founder of the Mar Musa Syriac Catholic Monastic community, was abducted in Raqqa (Syria) on July 29 2013. Reports and rumours on his fate circulated in the past four years, none of which were corroborated. Nobody claimed responsibility for his abduction. The priest had travelled to the capital city of the Islamic State (IS), to attend a meeting, on July 28, organized by local students. In a video of the demonstration we see Father Dall’Oglio demanding the freedom, unity and culture of Syria and its population. The following day the Jesuit Father went to the headquarters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and disappeared without a trace. This account is confirmed by priest’s brother, Pietro Dall’Oglio: “I think that Paolo went to Raqqa to speak with ISIS leaders and tell them that Christians believe in dialogue, in integration. He wanted to seal his commitment as a Jesuit father devoted to the establishment of peace: of his faithful and of his confreres.” Engaged in interreligious dialogue with the Islamic world, in 2012 Father Dall’Oglio was expelled by President Assad’s regime, who had enjoined him to refrain from expressing opinions on the political situation in the Country. Four years have passed since his abduction. SIR interviewed the brother of the Jesuit priest, the musician Pietro Dall’Oglio.
Who is Father Paolo Dall’Oglio? My brother Paolo is a person utterly devoted to others, faithful to his religious calling. He always lived his vocation coherently.
Paolo is in love with God, with his brothers, with peace, with dialogue, and with the Syrian people.
Passionately interested in Islam that he studied in depth, extending beyond the customary readings of this religion.
What does the monastery of Mar Musa, that he established, represent within the framework of his mission? For Father Paolo, Mar Musa concretizes an idea, a utopia, which is that of coherently living out the teachings of Jesus Christ to build a better world.
My brother always believed in the values of justice, equality and democracy,
In a world where everyone is given the possibility of developing their own path, through individual passion, through the gifts received.
Believing in peace and justice in a Country at war is a difficult mission… Paolo believes in peace, which includes the establishment of peace for a people tortured for the past 20 years by a political regime supported by the West.
A few days before leaving my brother told me that the UN blue helmets had to be sent to Syria to avert what he expected to be a carnage, and prevent the repetition of what happened in Ruanda and in the Balkans. It was necessary to intervene ahead of time, but it wasn’t done. Now there is no point crying over spilt milk.
Four years of silence. How are you living this period of wait?
We have no news.
We rely on Italy’s Foreign Ministry, which is one of the most well-prepared organisms in the world in handling situations such as that of my brother. The percentage of hostages released thanks to our Ministry is probably the highest in the world. Unfortunately to date we have no reliable information, so we live in expectation.
The battle for the liberation of Raqqa is ongoing. Do you think that reconquering the city, coupled by ISIS’ defeat, could help break the veil of silence regarding your brother’s abduction? We hope to see witnesses willing to speak out, along with the dissolution of ISIS’ network, whereby ex-militants will start disclosing information. I think it is possible not to receive news of my brother for four years. He was kidnapped in Syria and his situation could be similar to that of the candidate to Colombia’s presidential elections Ingrid Betancourt, whose captivity lasted six years.
My brother is alive, and I will continue believing it until I see his corpse
Or I am given reliable information about him from someone that I trust blindly.
In the past few days media outlets have been covering your brother’s situation quite extensively. Major reports on his person and his commitment are being broadcast on TV, radio, with in-depth articles on the press… We are very pleased about it. Paolo has always lived out the values in which he believed. For us, remembering this anniversary means that we firmly believe that he is alive. We do so also by making known what he was trying to make the world understand. Unfortunately his words fell of deaf ears.
To raise attention on the issue, after his brother’s kidnapping Pietro Dall’Oglio wrote a rap song titled “Abuna Paolo”.
Follow a few selected passages from the lyrics: “Paul, where are you, who are you with, are you talking or are you silent, maybe someone is listening to you; maybe you are scared there, all alone; who knows what your thoughts are now. Your silences are mysteries for us, your memories come and go, deeply in your mind… But for us, you have already won…”