THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It is almost a miracle that Kerala’s recently famous missionary, Fr Tom Uzhannalil, has been released from IS captivity, after given up for being crucified on Good Friday in 2016. It’s miracle that he alone among the live targets, barring a nun in hiding, was spared by the terrorists, who shot down 15 people at the care of the Missionaries of Charity in Aden in Yemen. Despite being a member of the Society of Don Bosco for 30 years and volunteered for work at the mission station, Fr Uzhannalil at one time, frail and apparently hopeless, blamed though under duress, the prelates and politicians for not doing enough to secure his release.
A video clip around last Xmas, posted on the FB page of one Saleh Salem on Christmas Day, said: “If I were a European, I would have been taken more seriously by authorities and people and would have got me released. I am a priest from India and perhaps, therefore, I am not considered of much value. I am sad about this”. Even on Tuesday, as news flashed of his release, there were unconfirmed reports that his freedom had come for a price. In the earlier video, he was upset with Pope Francis and the Bishop of Abu Dhabi for not having done anything for his release: “Holy Father, please take care of my life. Bishops, the world over, please save my life. My health is deteriorating,” he said.
Hope finally dawned when External Affairs Minister Sushama Swaraj in mid-July, after being told that Fr Uzhannalil was still alive, urged the visiting Yemeni Foreign Minister, Mr Abadulmalik Abduljalil Al-Mekhlafi, to secure his safe and early release. At the meeting, Al-Mekhlafi conveyed that the Yemen government was making all efforts to secure his release. The worst news came on March 29, 2016 when a UK-based newspaper carried the story of his crucifixion. The death was confirmed by the Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, who told his congregation about Fr Uzhannalil’s death during Easter Mass.