Fr Tom Uzhunnalil releases book about his captivity in Yemen

February 8, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Bangalore, February 8, 2018: The Indian priest who spent 18 months in captivity in Yemen has released an autobiography. Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, who was freed in September 2017, has titled the book By Grace of God.

The 58-year old priest presented his book during a meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India on February 2.

“The book narrates the life of Fr Tom from his childhood to his formation in the Salesian Congregation, to his missionary work in Yemen, and gives a detailed account of his abduction and imprisonment,” the Salesian Congregation’s communication’s agency, ANS, reported.

A native of Kerala, Fr Uzhunnalil worked in Yemen for 14 years before his abduction from the Missionaries of Charity home for the elderly in Aden on 4th March, 2016. During the raid, unidentified gunmen killed four Indian nuns, two Yemeni female staff members, eight elderly residents and a guard.

In March 2016, a false rumour circulated that the Islamic State group had crucified the priest on Good Friday. But then at Christmas 2016 a video of him in captivity surfaced, with the visibly unkempt and ailing priest – who is diabetic and has high blood pressure – urging India’s government to ensure his release.

That led to a series of assurances from the government, while the Catholic Church organised several demonstrations, including a day of prayer and candlelit vigils. A second video appeal by the priest surfaced on the internet in May 2017, in which he stated the government had yet to make serious efforts to secure his release.

Fr Uzhunnalil, speaking slowly in English, said in that video: “They are treating me well to the extent they are able. My health condition is deteriorating quickly and I require hospitalisation as early as possible.”

In July, 2017, Yemen confirmed to India’s foreign minister that Fr Uzhunnalil was still “alive”.

After the second video emerged, his cousin, VA Thomas, said his family had been “consistently pleading with everyone to ensure Fr. Tom’s release” and had called on several top government leaders.

Following the March 2016 attack, initial media reports blamed Ansar al-Sharia, but the Islamist group, which is linked with al-Qaeda, denied responsibility. Later, the attack was blamed on the Islamic State.

Militants from both IS and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have exploited the chaos and lawlessness prevailing nationwide since Yemen’s civil war erupted in 2015.

– sight magazine

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