02/13/2017, 11.14
INDIA

Catholic Indians to Modi: Use your influence to release Fr. Tom, kidnapped in Yemen

Santosh Digal

The All India Catholic Union is the largest association of lay Catholics. A letter to the Prime Minister asks him to use his diplomatic channels in the Middle East. In December, the native of Kerala Salesian appeared in a video, visibly tried, stating his need for urgent care.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The All India Catholic Union (AICU), the largest lay Catholic organization in India, is calling on Prime minister Narendra Modi to use his influence and that of his government to negotiate with the countries of the Middle East free Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped in Yemen on March 4, 2016.

In the letter, signed by the President, Lancy Da Cunha, Catholics express the anguish of the Christian community over the long months of imprisonment undergone by the Salesian priest, in the hands of jihadi militants linked to the Islamic State. Cunha says: "We ask for your personal intervention and assistance to ensure that he will return home as soon as possible and in complete safety. We hope and pray that you will support us".

Since last March Fr. Tom, a native of Kerala, has been in the hands of an Islamic group that attacked a rest home for sick and elderly of the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, in southern Yemen. In the attack four sisters of Mother Teresa and 12 other people present in the building were massacred. After months of silence, at the end of December a video was posted online in which the priest gave his personal details and stated he needed "urgent medical care".

The lay association recognizes that "the surroundings are much more complex than other cases of kidnapping of Indians in Afghanistan. We appreciate the efforts made by the Government and others to the release Jesuit Father Alexis Premkumar, kidnapped in Afghanistan and released eight months later. Even Judith D'Souza, the  Indian Catholic volunteer kidnapped in the same country, sometime later "was released.

According to Catholics, "given the difficult situation in the region, we believe that the Government of India, with its enormous capacity of influence and good relations in many Middle Eastern countries, is best placed to ensure effective intervention for the release of Fr. Tom from his captivity. "

"We call - says the chairman in conclusion - to her and to his colleagues of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to take all necessary measures to ensure his safety and freedom."

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