Since March 4 last, the Indian Salesian has been in the hands of an Islamic State commando. Yesterday, the kidnappers released a video, in which he appeals to Francis, the Indian government and Catholics worldwide. He adds: "I urgently need medical attention." Delhi assures: Regular contact with local authorities and regional powers.
Sanaa (AsiaNews) - After months of silence, yesterday a video appeared online of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, the Salesian Indian kidnapped by an extremist commando attributable to the Islamic State (IS) in early March in southern Yemen. In the film posted to Facebook and YouTube (click here to view), the priest gives an account of his condition and appeals to the Indian government and the Catholic community, including Pope Francis, asking for help.
Fr. Tom said that "after several months" since his kidnap "my captors have repeatedly contacted the Indian government" in an attempt to reach an agreement "for my release." Commenting on the video, the Indian Foreign Ministry (MEA) spoke of regular contact with the local authorities in Yemen to achieve the priest’s liberation.
The Delhi government has recalled the difficult situation in Yemen, where bloody conflict continues to rage without a "central authority" to turn to. "We are in contact with some nations in the region – MEA spokesman Vikas Swarup, clarifies- especially Saudi Arabia and the local authorities. Efforts continue in this sense ".
Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil has been in the hands of the jihadist group, in all likelihood linked to the Islamic State (IS), since 4 March, whem they stormed a home for the sick and elderly of the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, in southern Yemen. In the attack four sisters of Mother Teresa and 12 other people present in the building were massacred.
During Easter rumors - unsubstantiated – began to circulate in India of a plan drawn up by the kidnappers that included torture, murder and crucifixion of the priest on March 25, to coincide with Good Friday, the memorial of Christ’s passion and death. These rumors were never confirmed, instead they were denied on several occasions by the Salesians and the Vicariate of Arabia, but helped fuel fears about the fate of the Indian priest. In response, the Salesian Family asked people to pray for Fr. Tom on the occasion of Holy Thursday and the main celebrations dedicated to Easter.
In the message released yesterday Fr. Tom says in a weak voice: "If I were a European priest, they would take the matter more seriously. But I am Indian. Maybe I'm not worth that much. " "Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father - he continues - as a father, I beg you to take care of my life. I am very depressed. My health is deteriorating".
The Salesian, with a pale, thin face, seems to be reading from a text prepared in advance; the authenticity of the video cannot be independently verified and it is not possible to know when it was shot.
At the conclusion of the message Fr. Tom says he is in "urgent need of medical care" and that his kidnappers have tried several times to contact the Indian government, the President and the Prime Minister in "vain" and that "nothing has been done" for his liberation.
(Nirmala Carvalho, collaborated)
The superior of the Aden community has entrusted to a sister the dramatic story of the assault on the nursing home for the elderly and disabled. The sisters were killed because of their "fidelity" to their mission, by being found ready "to welcome their Spouse”. A blood sacrifice in the hope that it will bring about "shoots of peace for the Middle East and help stop Isis". The signed letter (PDF).
A day of prayer organized by the Bishops' Conference. The initiative was also joined Protestant communities. Rev. Thomas Jacob: "Let us pray for him to return home safely." Hundreds of faithful at candlelight vigil organized at Our Lady’s Cathedral Trivandrum.
On January 21 and 22 the Bishops' Conference has invoked a day of prayer for the liberation of the Salesian missionary. Card. Cleemis: We await with "anguish and prayer," news of his "release", that he is "alive and safe." Salesian Vicar: Amid the difficulties prayer is "essential" to "keep hope alive".
Indian government sources report that the Salesian kidnapped in Yemen is alive, well and they are working to ensure his release. He is not in the hands of the Islamic state, but "anti-government forces." Msgr. Hinder urges caution because "there are no new elements." He is optimistic, but calls for prudence.
Msgr. Hinder reports that so far there has been no official communication on the fate of the Salesian kidnapped in Yemen. The prelate thanks all for the demonstrations of solidarity from many parts of the world. April 4 in Bangalore a vigil marking one month since his capture was held. Salesian Vicar: a "testing time" to help us overcome "fears and divisions".