India government promises to secure priest abducted in Yemen

Government wants to go 'the extra mile' to secure Salesian Father Thomas Uzhunnalil's release
India government promises to secure priest abducted in Yemen

Indian charity worker Judith D'Souza, left, looks on as she meets with Minister of External Affairs of Sushma Swaraj, right, at Swaraj's residence in New Delhi, after returning to India July 23 after she was rescued following a kidnapping in Kabul. Swaraj has also recently promised to secure the freedom of Father Thomas Uzhunnalil who was abducted in Yemen five months ago. (Photo by AFP) 

India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has given an assurance about the safety of a Catholic priest abducted in Yemen five months ago and promised to secure his freedom soon, said a family member who met her in New Delhi.

The brother of abducted Salesian Father Thomas Uzhunnalil met Swaraj along with a delegation that included Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, on Aug. 4 wanting to know the latest developments.

The minister has "assured us of his safety and asked us to wait as the government is taking all possible measures to release the priest," Augustine Kurian, the priest's brother, told ucanews.com.

Suspected Islamic terrorists abducted the priest in March after shooting dead 16 people including four nuns during an attack on an old age home run by the Missionaries of Charity nuns in Aden's Sheikh Othman district.

Kurian said "the government does not want to rush things to make sure no harm is caused [to my brother]," he said. However, the government has not given a definite time for the release, he added.

Kurian said one reason for the slow progress is the fact the war-torn Yemen has no Indian embassy and the government is having to work through the embassies of other countries and agencies.

The delegation included Salesian Father Jose Mathew, provincial of the Bangalore Salesian province to which the abducted priest belongs, and Alphonse Kannanthanam, a former bureaucrat and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member, who facilitated the meeting.

Kurian said the minister indicated that the government wants to go "the extra mile" to secure the priest's release and send out a message that the BJP led federal government is concerned about all Indians, whether or not one belongs to "a minority or the majority" religious group.

The BJP-led government has often been accused of not safeguarding the interests of the religious minorities such as Christians and Muslims.

However, the government has been successful in securing the release of Jesuit Father Alex Prem Kumar in February 2015 and Catholic aid worker, Judith D'Souza on July 23 from abductors in Afghanistan.

Kurian said he is also scheduled to meet Bishop Paul Hinder, head of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, in the coming days to get more clarity on the issue.

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