In a video posted on social media platforms, a Catholic priest from Kerala, who was abducted in Yemen in March this year, has appealed to the central government and Pope Francis to secure his release. He has alleged that not enough efforts were being made to free him because, as an Indian, he was “not considered of much value”.
“If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously. I am from India. I am perhaps not considered as of much value,” Father Tom Uzhunnalil, also known as Father Tommy George, said in the video.
“My captors have made many contacts with the Government of India to get me released… President and Prime Minister of India. I am very sad that nothing has been done seriously in my regard,” he said.
Addressing “fellow Christians”, he said, “Nothing has been done by Pope Francis or the Bishop of Abu Dhabi to get me released, in spite of contact being made by my captors… Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a father please take care of my life. I am very much depressed. My health is deteriorating,” he said.
The priest said a news reporter, abducted in the Middle East, was released as she was from France. “I am from India and not considered… Dear people, I pray (to) you all, ask you all, beg you all to do your might to help me to save my life. I need hospitalisation soon. Please come to my help quickly,” said a frail-looking Uzhunnalil, who appeared to be reading from a text.
The veracity of the video could not be independently verified. It was also not known when it was shot.
Meanwhile, the Centre said efforts were being made to secure Uzhunnalil’s release, but such attempts take time. “You are aware of the circumstances currently prevailing in Yemen where fighting is going on with no central authority in that country. With regard to the safe release of Father Tom, who was abducted some months ago, we have been in regular touch with countries in the region, especially Saudi Arabia as also the local Yemeni authorities,” said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swaroop.
Earlier, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had informed Parliament that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken to various countries through which contacts could be established in Yemen. Stating that it takes time to secure the release of people who are held captive, she had asked MPs to have “faith” in the government’s efforts to trace the abducted priest.
Father Uzhunnalil was abducted in March by Islamic State operatives, when they attacked an old-age home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in the southern Yemeni city of Aden.