A source in the vicariate told AsiaNews that the Indian-born mother superior "is out of the country and in a safe place." Nothing is known about the fate of the kidnapped priest. There is hope that contacts can be identified "within two or three days." This Friday, churches in the Holy Land will pray for Yemen’s “martyred nuns". For Maronite Patriarchate in Jerusalem, the nuns are an example of devotion for Muslims.
Sanaa (AsiaNews) – Sister Sally, the Indian nun from the Missionaries of Charity who survived the 4 March attack against the retirement home in Aden, Yemen, in which four other nuns were killed, is out of the country and in a safe place,” a source from the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia told AsiaNews.
The fate of Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, 56, remains unknown. "So far, we have no reports about the priest even though we are trying to identify contacts,” the source said. “Our hope is that in two or three days we can start something, although we have had no official reports from Yemeni authorities or from other governments involved.”
Although nothing is certain, a group of gunmen, perhaps linked to the Islamic State group, stormed the home for senior citizens and disabled people in Aden, in southern Yemen. The facility was run by the Sisters of Mother Teresa.
The attackers killed four nuns – Sister Anselma from India, Sister Marguerite and Sister Reginette from Rwanda, and Sister Judit from Kenya – and 12 other people who worked at the centre. Only the superior managed to save herself from the attackers’ brutality. During the attack, the Jihadis seized Fr Tom Uzhunnalil.
The area “is now under the control of Yemeni police and security forces, who are waiting to find someone to take care of the disabled and seniors left in the facility,” the vicariate source said.
Inside "there is no nun or nurse left;" however, there is hope that "other volunteers, with the permission of the authorities, can take over the facility. For now, no priest or religious is expected back."
In a show of solidarity with the victimised Missionaries of Charity in Aden, the Church of the Holy Land will hold a memorial Mass for the martyred sisters of Yemen, led by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Mgr Fouad Twal, on Friday afternoon, 11 March, at the St Saviour's Church, near the New Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Custody of the Holy Land, the Latin parish of Jerusalem and the local Missionaries of Charity have called on the clergy, religious, seminarians and lay people across the Holy Land to participate. During the service, there will be prayers for Sisters Anselma, Margaret, Judith and Reginette.
"The celebration is a great show of solidarity, which we want to send to the missionaries in Yemen, and those who operate in the Holy Land, in Gaza and the Palestinian territories,” Sobhy Makhoul, chancellor of the Maronite Patriarchate in Jerusalem, told AsiaNews.
The nuns "offer a commendable service to the entire Arab world, without distinction between Christians and Muslims,” the chancellor said. “In Yemen, their service was "almost entirely dedicated to Muslims who alone lived at the retirement home,” scene of the massacre. "We feel responsible and we want to pray for our sisters,” Makhoul said. They “dedicated themselves to service to others.”
“I also want to make an appeal to the West, which is more and more deaf and blind to the sufferings of Christians in the Middle East. Stop giving weapons and money to terrorists, stop putting economic and political interests above everything. These are the consequences, and the effects can be seen already in Europe. No one can be safe from the violence. "
Turning his thoughts to the nuns, Makhoul noted that through their work,” they send “a very strong signal to the Muslim world" in terms of dedication, love, care for each other.
"With the Mass and the prayers for the missionaries of Mother Teresa killed in Yemen, we want to awaken the conscience of Muslims, especially those in the Holy Land,” he added.
“At present, many of our Muslim neighbours, ordinary people, expressed to us their respect and solidarity. When it comes to inter-faith dialogue, the leaders, the authorities, are usually mentioned. In reality, through this Mass, and what we do on social media, we talk to ordinary people, ordinary Muslims, in order to develop a critical conscience."
An answer does exist "because many Muslim neighbours have expressed regret for what happened in Yemen. People here are familiar with the nuns’ work. Nuns have been around for a thousand years, and never before have we seen such brutality. To avoid a repeat, we must develop such conscience, educate people, and build a bulwark against foreign fundamentalism, and bloodthirsty people.”
Since January 2015, Yemen has been the scene of a bloody civil war involving Jihadi and other extremist groups. The Missionaries of Charity have been attacked in the past.
In July 1998, a gunman shot and killed three nuns of the Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa of Kolkata as they left a hospital in the Yemeni city of Al Hudaydah.
Local authorities said at the time that the attacker was an “unbalanced Saudi”. Two of the murdered nuns were from India – Sister Lilia and Sister Anneta – whilst the third, Sister Michelle, was from the Philippines.