Indian Christians clamor for release of priest kidnapped by extremists in Yemen

Christians in India are calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use his power to negotiate for the release of Indian priest Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted by Islamic extremists in Yemen last year.

(REUTERS / Stringer)Military vehicles of the Southern Resistance fighters move during clashes with Houthi fighters on a street in Yemen's southern port city of Aden July 17, 2015.

In a letter signed by its president Lancy Da Cunha, the All India Catholic Union expressed sorrow over the plight of Fr. Uzhunnalil, who has been a captive of militants linked to the Islamic State. The Catholic group's members are now asking Prime Minister Modi to intervene and help secure the freedom of the Salesian priest, Asia News relays.

"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," said Cunha in the letter.

Fr. Uzhunnalil was abducted from a home of sick and elderly people at the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, southern Yemen on March 4, 2016. Aside from taking the Salesian priest, the jihadists also slaughtered four nuns and 12 other individuals in the compound. The kidnapped priest appeared in a video uploaded online in December and revealed that he is in need of "urgent medical care."

The AICU acknowledges that Fr. Uzhunnalil's situation is much more complicated compared with other abduction of Indians. The group also expressed appreciation for the government's efforts to negotiate for the release of a Jesuit priest and an Indian Catholic volunteer who were both kidnapped in Afghanistan.

In April last year, Pope Francis appealed for the release of Fr. Uzhunnalil and other people being held hostage in conflict areas. The appeal came after rumors circulated that the Salesian priest was crucified on Good Friday by his Islamist captors, the Catholic News Agency reports.

However, the government and bishops in India later denied the rumors and assured people that Fr. Uzhunnalil was still alive. They also said authorities are taking steps to ensure that he would be able to come home safely.