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Salesians organize nationwide prayers for abducted priest 

By C.M. Paul

Kolkata: The Bangalore province of the Salesians has urged the members of the congregation in South Asia to observe a day of prayer on January 4 for the speedy release of Father Tom Uzhunnalil.

The day marks the tenth month of the priest’s abduction in Yemen.

The appeal came after a video clip appeared on social media where a bearded man claiming to be the abducted priest seen pleading the Indian government and Church authorities to increase efforts for his release.

“In view of intensifying our prayerful efforts to secure the safe release of Fr Tom, I exhort all our communities to mark 4th January 2017 as a day of prayer with an hour of Eucharistic adoration,” says the appeal from Bangalore provincial superior Father Joyce Thonikuzhiyil.

The appeal requested all 11 Salesian provincials of South Asia to invite their staff, boarders, parishioners, members of the Salesian Family and well-wishers to join the prayer.

Fr Uzhunnalil was taken into custody by suspected Islamic militants from a Missionaries of Charity center in Aden, south Yemen, on March 4. His abductors also killed 16 people, including four nuns, before abducting the priest.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) workers of Kottayam district in Kerala, Fr Uzhunnalil’s home state, have sent some 50,000 postcards to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention for the priest’s release.

The Kottayam district leadership told media that the act was to protest the central government failure to take steps to rescue the priest.

The workers sent the postcards on January 2 from around 400 post offices in the district.

“Even nine months after the priest has been abducted, the government has not taken the issue seriously,” said Vasavan, the party’s district secretary. He called for intervention at the international level for the release of the priest.

The party plans another protest on January 5.

The video of 5 minutes and 6 seconds was released on the eve of Christmas. The bearded and pale man is heard speaking in a measured tone asking why no one seems to be doing anything to free him from the custody of his captors.

He also alleged that neither the Indian government nor the Catholic Church appeared to be negotiating for his freedom. He believes this may have something to do with him being an Indian and considered to be of not much value.

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