A close relative of the IS abducted Catholic Priest Thomas Uzhunnallil on Tuesday urged Pope Francis and the Indian government to secure his release. Uzhunnallil has been in captivity for nine months since the Islamic State terrorist group in Yemen abducted him. Despite various efforts his release did not work out.
“Now Pope Francis and the Indian government have to act for his release,” the relative said.
“Despite so many efforts our dear one languishes in captivity. Our Church has to take this up very seriously and at the highest level,” said the relative who claimed that besides Uzhunnallil, there were five more from the family who were in the clergy.
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The reaction from the family came soon after a video showing the captive priest pleading to authorities for his release, surfaced on the internet.
“I am very sad nothing seems to be happening for my release. If I was an European priest, I know by this time I would have been released,” Uzhunnallil said in the short video.
“But since I am an Indian and not considered of much value, I am still here. I beg to all of you, please pray for me. My health is deteriorating,” said the bearded, frail-looking captive.
Reacting to the news reports of the video, Union Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj wrote on her twitter handle on Tuesday morning: “I have seen the video from Father Tom.”
“He is an Indian citizen and the life of every Indian is most precious for us. We got Father Alex Prem Kumar and Judith D’Souza released from Afghanistan.
“We have spared no effort and we will spare no effort to secure Father Tom’s release from captivity,” said Swaraj.
In March, IS militants barged into a care-home for the elderly (set up by Mother Teresa in Yemen’s Aden in 1992), and shot dead many people, including four nuns of the Missionaries of Charity.
Uzhunnallil was the one captured. The militants abducted the Kerala priest that day and there has been no information about him ever since.
Uzhunnallil’s ancestral home is in Ramapuram in Kottayam district, which lies deserted as two of his brothers live abroad, while another lives in Gujarat.