Father Tom Uzhunnalil: Prayer kept me going during ISIS captivity

The Catholic priest from Kerala who was abducted by ISIS from a chapel in Yemen said the biggest challenges for him in captivity were loneliness and uncertainty.

Published: 30th September 2017 05:17 PM  |   Last Updated: 30th September 2017 07:02 PM   |  A+A-

Thanksgiving for the safe return of Fr Tom Uzhunnalil at Good Shephered Auditorium in Bengaluru. (Photo | EPS/Nagaraja Gadekal)

By Express News Service

BENGALURU: Father Tom Uzhunnalil, the Catholic priest from Kerala who was abducted by ISIS from a chapel in Yemen, said the biggest challenges for him in captivity were loneliness and uncertainty but he never lost hope. Fr Tom was in Bengaluru on Saturday and narrated his ordeal to media personnel.

Fr Tom hails from Kottayam district of Kerala. He became a priest in the Don Bosco congregation in 1990. In 1973, the government of Yemen had invited the Sisters of Charity of St Mother Teresa of Calcutta to open some centres in Yemen to look after the destitute and abandoned people there. 

"After mass on the morning on Friday Mar 4, 2016, I was praying in the chapel. I heard some gunshots, and went out to check. I found the security guards lying in a pool of blood. One of the men who had shot the guards asked me for my identity.

"I told him I was an Indian. They made me sit on a chair by the side of the security room. I saw the death of four sisters, the gardener, security man and a boy. I said a prayer in mind. I thought my turn would be next. But they tied me up and put me in the boot of a car," said Father Tom. 

Later, he was handed over to another group. "They did not torture me or ill-treat me. Initially, they tied my hands and legs. They gave me food. They also gave me medicines on two occasions when I fell sick," he said. 

It was not easy for him to communicate with his captors. "They spoke only in Arabic which I could not understand nor did they seem to understand my English," he said. 

Father Tom added that throughout his captivity, he had faith that prayer would help. "I was confined to a room that had no ventilation. It had only a small sponge-like mattress on which I sat and slept. I had fever twice but it went away soon.  On one other occasion, I had severe shoulder pain. I was 82 kg when I was abducted. I am 55 now," he said.

“In the room, I used to sing, reflect and say as many prayers as I could. I was sure there would be a lot of people in the world praying for me," he said.

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