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Kidnapped Indian Priest Appeals To Pope Francis, PM Modi To Secure His Release

"If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously."

26/12/2016 7:33 PM IST | Updated 26/12/2016 11:14 PM IST
Saleh Salem/YouTube

KOCHI -- An Indian Catholic priest abducted from Yemen this year appealed to Pope Francis and the Union government through a purported video to secure his release from his captors.

"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," said priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil in a weak voice in the video, aired by news channels in Kerala.

"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 in the video, a day after Christmas.

Father Uzhunnalil, who looked very weak, appeared to be reading out from a text placed before him.

The veracity of the video, which was uploaded from You tube and Facebook, could neither be independently verified nor was the period when it was shot known.

Father Uzhunnalil, who hails from Kerala, was abducted in March by terror group Islamic State which attacked an old-age home run by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity in southern Yemeni city of Aden.

He claimed his captors have made many contacts with the Government of India--President and Prime Minister.

"I am very sad that nothing has been done seriously in my regard," he said.

He said reports had said everything has been done to get his release, "but in reality nothing" has been done.

Father Uzhunnalil 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 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," he said.

The Union Government has said efforts are being made to secure Uzhunnalil's release, but such attempts take time.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had informed Parliament that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has spoken to various countries through which contacts can be established in Yemen.

Swaraj had said it takes more time to secure release of people who are held captive and asked the MPs to keep "faith" in government's efforts to trace the abducted priest.

UPDATE: The Ministry of External Affairs released a statement regarding Father Uzhunnalili's release:

MEA official spokesperson Vikas Swarup said:

"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. Efforts continue in this regard," Swarup told ANI.

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