Christians in the Arabic Peninsula have urged prayers for an Indian priest abducted in Yemen by Islamic militants on March 4, 2016, as New Year’s Day was overshadowed by uncertainty over his condition and whereabouts. The appeal came after priest Tom Uzhunnalil was seen begging for his life in video footage published by social media, a day after Christmas.
Uzhunnalil, from the town of Ramapuram in India’s state of Kerala, appeared very weak and at times was gasping for breath as he appealed to Pope Francis, India’s government and other governments to secure his release.
The priest was abducted when terror group Islamic State attacked an old-age care home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity group in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, killing 16 people. Among the victims were four missionary sisters (two from Rwanda, one from India and one from Kenya) and several of their helpers, including some from Ethiopia and some Yemeni Muslim staff, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
Uzhunnalil, who served in Yemen for over four years, was reportedly staying at the care home at the time of the raid when he was abducted by the militants. In a posted video, the priest condemned the apparent reluctance to save him. “If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously,” he stressed in the roughly five-minute-video.
“I am from India. I am perhaps not considered as of much value,” added the 59-year-old. “Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a father please take care of my life. I am very much depressed. My health is deteriorating,” the priest said.
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Stefan J. Bos