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Church \ Church in Middle East

Fate of Indian Salesian priest abducted in Yemen unknown

The old people's centre of the Missionaris of Charity nuns in Aden, Yemen, from where Indian Father Tom Uzhunnalil was abducted on March 4. - EPA

The old people's centre of the Missionaris of Charity nuns in Aden, Yemen, from where Indian Father Tom Uzhunnalil was abducted on March 4. - EPA

07/03/2016 15:21

Besides killing four Missionaries of Charity nuns and 12 other civilians during an attack on an old ‎people’s home in Aden, Yemen on March 4, gunmen also kidnapped an Indian Salesian missionary ‎priest ‎who lived at the facility.  At ‎the time of the attack, he "was in the chapel praying."    India’s ‎Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said is a Tweet that an Indian national identified as Father Tom ‎Uzhunnalil had been "abducted by terrorists in Yemen".  She said officials in neighbouring Djibouti ‎were trying to ascertain his whereabouts to secure his release.  One of the slain nuns is an Indian.  ‎

Fr. Tom, a Keralite Salesian priest belonging to Bangalore Province, had refused to abandon his charity ‎work despite threats to his life earlier from the terrorists, said a report by Onmanorama, the online news ‎of the popular Malayalam newspaper Malayala Manorama.  Kunjaugusty, a cousin of the abducted ‎priest shared with Onmanorama more details on what happened Friday.  When the gunmen stormed the ‎old age home of the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, they first locked up Fr. Tom inside the chapel, ‎and went about massacring 16 people.  The gunmen then returned to the chapel, handcuffed Fr. Tom ‎and drove him away in their vehicle to some unknown location, Kunjagusty said based on eyewitness ‎accounts shared with him by Fr M.J. George, another Keralite priest in Yemen's Hodeidah city.‎

Fr Tom has been a missionary in Yemen for the past four years.  The recent surge of extremism had ‎made it difficult for him to continue his mission, and he had to be on the guard even while going to ‎celebrate Mass.  Last September, gunmen had set on fire a church where he was deputed. Since then, ‎the 56-year-old had been staying at the MC’s home for the elderly in Aden.  There were constant ‎threats to Fr Tom's life but Friday's was the first time he was targeted.‎

Kunjaugusty told Onmanorama Fr. Tom never thought of abandoning from his mission in the troubled nation.  It was his ‎vocation and he is not someone to bow down to terror tactics, Kunjaugusty said.  Fr Tom last contacted ‎his family on the social media on Thursday.  No one lives at his ancestral home in Ramapuram near Pala ‎in Kottayam. Most of his siblings reside abroad.   Fr Tom's relatives are in constant touch with the ‎various government offices for any updates on his situation, even as they fervently pray for the well-‎being of this brave man of God, Kungaugusty said.‎

Catholic missions in Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Oman come under the jurisdiction of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia based in Abu Dhabi.  Some 100 priests from various congregations serve a mostly expatriate community of Catholics in the Vicariate. Since a civil war broke out last year in Yemen, many of the missions have been abandoned.

The Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa, have been present in Yemen since 1973 following the invitation from the then Government of North Yemen to take care of the care home for the aged and destitute. The house in Aden was opened in 1992.

07/03/2016 15:21