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
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.