DEC 27th 2016 By Deacon Nick Donnelly Commonwealth
Xl photo posted to father toms facebook page

The Islamist terrorists who kidnapped Fr Tom Uzhunnalil during their murderous attack on the Missionaries of Charity in Yemen have posted a video on Youtube and Facebook. Fr Uzhunnalil's family confirm that it is a video of him. During the video Fr Tom appeals for help, saying that if he were a European priest efforts would have been taken to secure his release, but as he's an Indian priest he's been abandoned. Fr Tom appealed directly to Pope Francis to help him.

The Times of India reports

However, relatives of the priest confirmed that it was indeed the priest who appears in the video. "Father is clearly shown in the video. He appears to be very weak and is gasping for breath while talking. He needs immediate medical care," said Augustine Mathew, a cousin of the priest who is also the General Secretary of Uzhunnalil Family Association (Kudumbayogam).

The priest sounds dejected for lack of efforts to save him. "If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously. I am from India. I am perhaps not considered as of much value," says 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," he says. He claimed his captors have made many contacts with the Government of India, President and Prime Minister.

"I am very sad that nothing has been done seriously in my regard," he said. "Reports have been there in the news that everything is being done to release me quickly. But in reality nothing seem to have happened. I am very sad and depressed. I request also my fellow Christians in India, the Bishops and priests, to do their might to help me to get released and save my life," he added.

Father Uzhunnalil also cited the incident of a French reporter abducted in the Middle East, who was later released. "I am from India and not considered. Dear people, I pray you all, ask you all, beg you all to do your might to help me to save my life. I need hospitalisation soon. Please come to my help quickly," he said.

Comment

Fr Tom Uzhunnalil was abducted in March 2016 during the terrorists attack on the  Missionaries of Charity care home in the capital of Yemen, Aden. Four of the nuns were executed, along with 12 elderly residents. Fr. Uzhunnalil, the care homes chaplain,  was able to consume all the hosts reserved in the tabernacle before his abduction, though the Muslim terrorists did destroy statues and crucifixes in the small church.

The fate of Fr Tom remained unknown until the release of the video on the 26th December 2016. A video was released in July 2016 that appeared to show Fr Tom being beaten and abused, but authorities denied that it was him. In September 2016 Bishop Paul Hinder asked for prayers for Fr Tom, admitting with some emotion that the Church has no idea what has happened to him, “And pray for Father Tom, if he’s dead or not. We don’t know.” Bishop Hinder talked of Fr Tom’s dedication to serve the Catholics of Yemen, “Fr. Tom was abducted: he had returned to Yemen, asking me and the provincial for permission. I told him: ‘If you want, I will help you enter my country.’ Certainly today it’s painful to think about. But I am still convinced it was right. In war you can never predict what happens.” Despite Fr Tom’s church being burnt down he wanted to remain to support the Missionaries of Charity and Catholics in Yemen, mostly migrant workers from India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. Fr. Tom, 56, was born in Ramapuram, Kerala. His uncle Matthew, was also a Salesian priest who founded the mission in Yemen. Fr Tom has been in Yemen for four years before his abduction.