India Seeking Release of Priest Abducted in Yemen

Akash Vashishtha
2016.03.28
New Delhi
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160328-IN-priest-fate-620.jpg A Catholic priest in India washes the feet of a parishioner at the Maundy Thursday service at St. Anthony’s Church in Hyderabad, March 24, 2016.
Photo: Benar

The Indian government on Monday said it is making all efforts to secure the release of the Indian priest amid uncertainty over his fate after he apparently was abducted by the Islamic State (IS) in Yemen earlier this month.

“The government is trying to secure his release. We are in talks with the consulate in Yemen. Efforts are on,” External Affairs ministry spokesman Y.S. Kataria told BenarNews.

Sources in the ministry said they were in regular contact with consular officials in Yemen to determine the whereabouts of Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, 56, who hails from south India’s Kerala state.

Uzhunnalil apparently was abducted by IS militants on March 4 following an attack by four gunmen on a care-home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in the coastal town of Aden. Sixteen people, including an Indian nun, were killed in the attack.

Reports circulated that Uzhunnalil had been crucified by the IS on Good Friday, but those reports had not been confirmed by the Indian government.

In Abu Dhabi, Bishop Paul Hinder, head of the Catholic Church in Yemen, said he had “strong indications” that Uzhunnalil “is still alive in the hands of his kidnappers,” according to the Catholic Herald, a Catholic news outlet.

“I have no confirmation that anything happened Good Friday,” he was quoted as saying.

Churches and missionary groups across India offered prayers for the safe release of Uzhunnalil.

Father Mathew Valarkot, spokesman for the Salesians’ Bangalore province, told BenarNews, “It is a very difficult moment for all of us. We don’t know where he is. We can only offer prayers. The government is trying its best to rescue him. Only this much can be said at this juncture.”

The Salesians, the order to which Uzhunnalil belongs, are in regular contact with the government.

A.C. Michael, national coordinator of the United Christians’ Forum and a former member of the Minorities Commission in Delhi, told BenarNews, “We believe in the government’s sincerity and efforts to rescue Father Tom. Nobody can be blamed for this kind of situation happening outside India. There are hardly any words to express this difficult situation.”

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