Father Tom Uzhunallil, a Catholic priest from Bengaluru who was kidnapped by gunmen reportedly linked to the ISIS in Yemen earlier this month, is due to be crucified on Good Friday, a religious group has claimed.
A Facebook post last week by the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen, based in South Africa, claimed, "Was informed that the Salesian priest, Fr.Tom who was kidnapped by ISIS from the Missionaries of Charity Home in Yemen is being tortured and is going to be crucified on Good Friday.”
The post which was reportedly shared more than 100,000 times has now been deleted.
Father Uzhunnalil, who hails from Kerala, was kidnapped on March 4 during an attack on a convent and nursing home run by the Missionaries of Charity in the strike-torn region. The attack had caused the deaths of 16 persons, including four nuns of the Missionaries of Charity, two staff members and eight nursing home residents.
Father Uzhunnalil, who was reportedly praying in the chapel of the convent at the time of the attack, was kidnapped by the attackers.
Father Mathew Valarkot, spokesman for the Salesians' Bangalore province, told The News Minute, “We don’t have any information so far about Father Tom. We also don’t have any proof of him being kidnapped, and no group has claimed responsibility till now.”
Referring to the Facebook post which was put up last week by the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen, he said that while the post has been doing rounds on social media they “don’t subscribe to it as they don’t know the source of the information and whether it is authentic or not.”
“We are trying to do what we can to get more information about him. Currently there is no Indian embassy in Yemen, but we have approached the government and other sources for help,” Father Mathew added.
According to the nun, who is said to be the only survivor of the attack by Islamist gunmen reportedly linked to the IS, the militants arrived at 8:30 am and first killed the guard and the driver.
Sister Sally, the superior of the sisters' community in Yemen, gave her account of the day of the attack to fellow nuns, Christian Post reported.
Her account was written on paper by another nun called Sister Adriana which can be read here.
The militants then caught four nuns and "shot them in the head" and "smashed their heads".
"A neighbour saw them put Father Tom in their car. They did not find any trace of Father anywhere," the testimony states.
Relatives trying to gather information as well
"Since there is no bad news either, we are hopeful that he is safe," Adv Augustine Mathew, relative of Tom Uzhunnalil had earlier said to The New Indian Express.
"We are trying to gather information through a relative in the External Affairs Ministry in Delhi. But, we are yet to get any update on his whereabouts," he added.
'But even today we do not know who has taken him and what their motives are because no one has claimed responsibility.'
The Salesians are “the only Catholic priests working in the country” and minister to Catholic migrants from the Philippines, India, and Sri Lanka in four cities: Sana’a, Aden, Hodeida, and Taiz. The Missionaries of Charity have been present in the country since 1970.
As Yemen plunged further into chaos in recent years, three out of five Salesian priests left the country at the advice of the Indian government. “Despite the obvious threats to their safety the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa and the two Salesian priests stayed back in a heroic of gesture of commitment and solidarity with the flock,” the order stated on one of its websites.