Fr. Tom Is Free!

12th September, 2017.
Thank you for your prayers that made this miracle happen!

Rev. Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, SDB

On March 4, four gunmen attacked a Missionaries of Charity-run retirement home in Aden, Yemen, killing 16 people including four Missionary of Charity sisters. Fr. Uzhunnalil was kidnapped by the gunman during the attacks, which are thought to have been perpetrated by Islamic terrorists, though no specific group has claimed responsibility for the incident.
  Quoted from the CNA blog (see link #1)  


A news item appeared on Good Friday (March 25) 2016 on various websites headlining a threat by IS(IS) to execute a Catholic priest in its captivity by crucifixion. The priest, Rev. Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, is Indian and was captured in Yemen at the beginning of March during a terrorist raid on a shelter run by nuns. (Four nuns were killed in that raid). Since then there's been no word about Fr. Tom's whereabouts or status. It now appears that a religious website had aired an article fearing that Fr. Tom would be executed by crucifixion on Good Friday. This was a 'fear' and NOT an authenticated threat from any terrorist group – not even IS(IS). Anyway that blogpost was picked up by syndicated newsfeeds and was distributed to subscriber news bulletins and sites.
That's when the tone of the article and its headline changed — it was no longer a fear but an announcement of an (almost) certain event. The news was met with consternation by readers especially the Roman Catholic community around the world, especially those closely related to missionary congregations, and especially those from India.
This started a chain reaction and at each iteration the imminence of the execution became more definite.

I had read the article around noon and I was shocked. So I set up this page as quickly as I could. However I also had to get ready to attend the Good Friday services around three in the afternoon and so I just put up a few lines about the news and a picture of Fr. Tom (via Google Images).
It is now almost midnight and there is absolutely no news about Fr. Tom. So maybe it was a 'bogey' call after all. There were a few voices that had expressed reservation about the news item. The main objection was that there was no intimation from any terrorist group about such an execution. Till now, no terrorist organisation has taken responsibility for the raid on the missionary post. So, the question was, how could this 'news' be taken as valid?
A few persons voiced the suspicion that the 'news' was floated as click−bait.

Permit me to state my position vis−a−vis the objections raised:
First of all, a fear is a fear is a fear — but if there is reasonable grounds for fearing that the fear is well-founded then I think that it is not foolish to consider the fear to be well-founded, and it is no longer a mere fear but it is a potential threat — a real and present danger, if I may.
Just minutes before the Good Friday service was to begin I did ask the local priest about 'Fr. Tom' — and was mightily taken aback when he calmly stated that it was 'fake'! His justifications for making this statement were:
The IS is not going to inform anyone of their intentions of execution – they, like Nike's exhortation, just do it!
The IS is not going to hold a hostage so long if the intention is to kill him.
The IS is not interested in the significance of Good Friday — for them any day is as good as any other day — every day is Sunday!
The 'news' is not news — it is just a lot of rumours on social media.
My response is:
We do not hold up any terrorist organisation, least of all IS, as a model of consistency. They may, they may not, they may, they may not do the information bit. They usually do because it gets them a lot more publicity and the fear factor shoots through the stratosphere and that is what they want most of all — fear! So though there was no such communication from the bad guys I don't think it was such a far-fetched idea to get the feeling that they would do something like this as a chilling example of terror. Though (as the popular aphorism goes) terrorism has no religion and terrorism does not differentiate on the basis of creed — I do have a healthy, healthy reservation about that aphorism! If you think the terrorists we're talking about are really pally-wally and hale-fellow-well-met and buddy-buddy and BFF with Christians — I recommend a really frigid shower, pal!
Again, let's not give credit where credit is not due — there have been cases of hostages being held for longer periods — and then being executed. My response is a repeat of the 'consistency-inconsistency' argument given just prior. Fr. Tom was taken prisoner on the 3rd or 4th of this month — today's the 25th — 20 days give or take. That's not long long but short long. I can see myself thinking: "Wait a sec! I've got a killer idea about killing the goose and getting the golden egg to boot! Why don't we kill the Christian on Good Friday??!! Get it? Good Friday — Christian, Christian — Good Friday… also Good Friday— crucifixion, crucifixion — Good Friday? Now take it from the top and we have — Christian – Good Friday – crucifixion. It'll make the Nine o'clock news! All it'll cost us is about twenty days of keeping him alive, no big deal."
Good Friday is sufficiently well known in the Middle East because it resonates with a very similar period of fasting that culminates with an event very similar to Christ's Crucifixion on Good Friday. So I don't think that the significance of Good Friday would have escaped the terrorists. Besides, a lot of the terrorists grew up in Christian environments and so they're familiar with Good Friday. Thirdly, there are a few terrorists who were Christian formerly. So I do think that an intelligent terrorist would be informed enough to set up a hit on Good Friday. Recently, in India, we had news that a terror strike was planned for a significant religious event – Mahashivratri – at the beginning of this very month (March 2016). The idea is to unleash death and destruction as a counter to the religious fervour of the target group.
Social media did get into the act in full swing. That's hardly surprising given the fact that social media goes viral over anything at all. But that's only half the story — it turns out that the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen (S.Africa) had used Facebook to post their fear about Fr. Tom's case. So one cannot dismiss the post as out−and−out rumour−mongering or the wild imaginings of a pimply-faced teen with a severe social dysfunction.
… and as for the allegation of click−baiting, using a religious topic is quite the 10th or 100th option I'd choose for baiting the mouse trap! Anyone with an iota of common−sense would be able to tell you what sells on the web (all over the place actually but especially on the web!) and that is (1) money and sex or (2) sex and money or (3) any other combination of these two. As a matter of fact using the phrase "Good Friday" or "Catholic priest" is definitely a BIG turn−off for the majority of web−users.

It is well past midnight and there is no news of Fr. Tom. Well, I suppose no news really is good news! Or, if I were to be cynical in a sarcastic sort of way, I could say that the prayers of the faithful turned the trick!
Anyway, good night all of you and a BIG "God bless you and keep you"!
— H. Chapman
25th March, 2016.

  (1) Catholic News Agency  
  (2) Matters India website  
  (3) Firstpost website  
  (4) DNA news  

UPDATE (01/04/2017):
Rev. Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, SDB
Rev. Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, SDB
These pictures are taken from a video that surfaced on the 26th of December, 2016.
Links (Update) 01/04/2017
  (1) Catholic News Agency  
  (2) Vatican Radio  
  (3) You Tube video  
  (4) My Church Website  

UPDATE (15/04/2017):
Rev. Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, SDB
This picture is taken from a video that shows Fr. Tom with a placard saying "15-4-2017".