RMG - Fr Tom Uzhunnalil: eight months later, still no news

04 November 2016

(ANS - Rome) - On 4 March 2016 a group of armed men attacked the house of the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen, killing 16 people, including 4 Sisters.  At the time of the attack on the sisters’ house, an Indian Salesian priest, Fr Thomas Uzhunnalil, was present. As the hours passed it became clear that he had been abducted. Today, however, eight months later, we still have no definite news of him.

Many people were mobilized immediately on his behalf. Among those who had and still have a prominent role in the whole affair are the Indian Foreign Minister, Hon. Sushma Swaraj, the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, Msgr. Paul Hinder, and the Salesians of the Bangalore Province to which the Mission in Yemen belongs, in particular the Provincial, Fr Mathew Thonikuzhiyil, and the Secretary, Fr Mathew Valarkote.

Since that 4 March there has been no definite news of the fate of the Indian missionary. He is a nephew of Fr Mathew Uzhunnalil, the man who started the Salesian mission in Yemen. Rumours of all kinds began to circulate on the internet, especially around Easter. Fortunately they later proved to be unfounded.

Later, in July, images appeared on Fr Uzhunnalil’s Facebook page that seemed to portray him in a bad state of health, blindfolded and beaten. But the authenticity of those images was immediately questioned by those who knew him best, beginning with his confreres of the Province of Bangalore, and shortly thereafter the Facebook page was closed.

In the first few weeks there were countless appeals, vigils and demonstrations of sympathy and solidarity - by simple Christians, the Missionaries of Charity and many other men and women religious, the Conference of Bishops of Kerala State and of all India. Even the Pope appealed for his release on 10 April. The fact that nothing was happening meant that media attention naturally diminished.

This is why today, eight months after those tragic events and the kidnapping of Fr Uzhunnalil, the Salesian Congregation, starting from the Rector Major, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, once again calls for attention to remain focused on the condition of this missionary and asks all to continue to pray for him and for his release.



ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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