Bengaluru: Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was freed after being kept in captivity by Islamic State for 18 months in strife-torn Yemen, has said the power of people's prayers for him changed the hearts of his abductors, who did not hurt him and even offered him food during the Muslim holy month of Ramzan.
"I feel the prayers of people and their sacrifices changed the hearts of my abductors and prevented them from hurting me. I am certain, God had done something," he said at a welcome event in his honour in Bengaluru on Friday night. The 59-year-old Catholic priest had returned to Delhi on Thursday after rest and recuperation in the Vatican City.
He had met prime minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on 28 September in New Delhi after his arrival.
On his meeting with Modi, Father Tom said, "The most interesting part of the conversation I had with the prime minister was when he said I am free now and I should get stronger and serve people." Father Tom belongs to the Congregation of Salesians of Don Bosco and was abducted reportedly during a terrorist attack in Aden and taken to an undisclosed place. "The abductors also offered me food during Ramzan, the month in which the Muslims fast. They were kind enough to do so," he added.
Giving an interesting account of his release, father Tom said he was all set to be released on 10 September , but the plan was dropped due to lack of transport arrangement.
"On the morning of 10 September, I was driven in a car from the place of my captivity to a certain place where we waited for further journey in another vehicle, but it was cancelled, because of lack of transport arrangement. We had to return for next day's journey on 11 September," he said. Interestingly, on way back, a person told him to pray to Jesus Christ, he said.
"It did materialise, I was again driven to the place where we waited. After hours of waiting, three vehicles came and in one of the cars, I was driven to Oman through the deserts at a speed of 180 kilometres per hour. By 4 am on 12 September we reached Oman and rest everybody knows," he said. When asked what was his first reaction on hearing the news of his release, Father Tom said he was doubtful. "I was not sure of my release, despite one of the abductors, who spoke English, telling me about it. "They asked me to wear a veil, and that moment I asked myself whether I will be released at all, or taken to some other place to be held captive," he said.
However, on 12 September a person confirmed over phone to him about his return to India.
"I was rest assured of my release when a person spoke to me over phone about my safety and travel back to India. The call was made by the person under whose protection I was driven to Oman," he said.
On his arrival at Bengaluru International Airport on Friday , Karnataka Home Minister KJ George and Christian leaders had welcomed him. Uzhunnalil had reached Yemen in 2010 and was serving the Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity of St Mother Teresa and the catholic population there.
Updated Date: Sep 30, 2017 15:39:40 IST