Father Tom Uzhunnalil is a happy man as he heads back to his hometown Ramapuram in Kerala on Sunday (October 1) after an agonising year-and-a-half long period of confinement by the Islamic State terror militia in Yemen. Father Tom was abducted from the port city of Aden when terrorists attacked an old-age home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity where he was working. At least 15 people were killed in the savage attack.
In a video released in May, Father Tom was seen pleading for help as his health was deteriorating. He had also also said that his abductors had “contacted the Indian government and the Catholic bishop in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with their demands.” India’s External Affairs Ministry promptly pursued his case with the authorities in Yemen. After sustained efforts in coordination with the Oman government which took the lead in getting the priest released after a request from the Vatican, the 59-year-old priest was finally released on September 12.
Clarifying that no ransom was paid to the kidnappers, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh said, “Release of Father Uzhunnalil underlines one thing that the Ministry of External Affairs works quietly and without noise, but ultimately gets the work done.”
On his arrival in India, Father Tom met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and thanked them for their unstinting support. Speaking to reporters at the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India, the priest expressed his gratitude to everyone, saying, “The Hindu brothers who worshipped for my well-being, the Muslim brothers who prayed to Allah for my safety. I now belong to the entire world.” Father Tom added, “I thank the Almighty. I thank the government of India, of various other countries.”
Yemen has been ravaged by a civil war since 2015. Over 10,000 people have been killed and more than 40,000 have been injured so far according to an official report. The war has spawned a humanitarian crisis of colossal proportions with an outbreak of cholera in April, which has killed over 2,000 people and left millions displaced.
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