Fr Tom Uzhunnalil extols prayer as the most powerful weapon
by Nirmala Carvalho

The Indian Salesian was held for 18 months by an extremist group in Yemen. In his autobiography ‘By the Grace of God’, he recounts his experience of captivity and faith. His thoughts are for the Sisters of Mother Teresa in Yemen left without a priest since 2016 and for the four nuns who were killed. Forgiveness is “an effective weapon of prayer".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, the Indian Salesian abducted in Yemen in March 2016 by a Jihadist group and freed after 18 months, on Saturday presented his autobiography, By the Grace of God, in which he recounts his experience of captivity and faith.

“Pray, pray, pray. Prayer is the most powerful weapon,” he said during the book launch, held at St Andrew's Church in Bandra, Mumbai, organised by the Andrean Youth Movement (AYM).

On this occasion, the missionary paid his respects to Card Oswald Gracias, titular of the archdiocese, on the eve of the 12th anniversary of his elevation to the cardinalship, which fell on the Solemnity of Christ the King, yesterday.

“May Jesus the King of Kings bless His Eminence Cardinal Gracias with all the graces; he stands in need to lead the faithful entrusted in the way of the King Jesus wants,” he said.

After celebrating Mass, Fr Tom calmly and clearly spoke about his abduction and the 557 days he spent in captivity.

On 4 March 2016, an Islamic group attacked the compound of the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen, killing 16 people, including four nuns. They seized Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, who was released in September of the following year.

Despite the violence he witnessed and the suffering he personally endured, the Salesian always tries to inspire serenity and promote interfaith dialogue. His main concern is for the Sisters of Mother Teresa, "who have been without the Sacraments since 2016. I was the last priest in Yemen,” he said.

In his address, he stressed the value of forgiveness through prayer. “Forgiveness is an effective weapon in praying for those who harm you. If you do not forgive, it will torture you.

“I also prayed for my captors during my imprisonment; I prayed that God could bless them by changing their hearts. I often repeated: ‘God, forgive them’. Don't judge. When you see the news, pray. Do not believe in everything you see; pray for peace in their hearts. "

Along with prayer and forgiveness for his captors, Fr Tom often thought about the Sisters of Mother Teresa murdered by the extremists.

In the book he states that the heroic and tragic martyrdom of the sisters disturbed him. “One day, something made me pray that God should make it rain as a sign from heaven that the Sisters are now enjoying the Beatific vision.  Believe it or not; that evening there was a very heavy shower.”

“I am convinced that my release was the fruit of the prayers of millions worldwide, more especially, the prayers and sacrifices of my countrymen.  Heartfelt thanks to each and every one. May God Bless you abundantly and recompense you as He knows best.”