The Indian Salesian spent 18 months in the hands of an extremist group. His experience testifies to the value of prayer in hard times and of the importance of standing with those persecuted for their faith. The award will be given next Sunday, two years after the clergyman’s liberation. The current Chaldean Primate and the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong are among past laureates.
Frankfurt (AsiaNews) – Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, the Indian Salesian clergyman abducted by Jihadis in Yemen in March 2016 and held for 18 months, will be honoured by the Stephanus Foundation with its Prize for Persecuted Christians in the World on Sunday in a ceremony in Frankfurt, Germany, where the organisation is located.
The 59-year-old clergyman will talk about his experience at the mission and in captivity, stressing the value of prayer in hard times as well as "the importance of the struggle alongside the persecuted.”
The official note announcing the prize starts with the initial report about an Indian priest crucified by Islamists in Yemen and ends mentioning the joy of his liberation on 12 September 2017.
Among Christians, the memory of the jihadi attack on 4 March 2016 against the facility run by Missionaries of Charity remains as vivid as ever. Altogether, four nuns and 12 other people were killed. Fr Tom Uzhunnalil was taken and held until September of the following year.
During this time, the jihadis released two videos, in July and December 2016, showing a tired priest reading a message written by kidnappers.
Despite his trials and tribulations in the hands of his captors, Fr Tom has always tried to instill calm and serenity in others, including in public events, stressing the need for dialogue and outreach.
The Stephanus Foundation for Persecuted Christians is named after a deacon of the early Christian Church, the first martyr stoned for his faith in Christ.
According to its statute, it helps persecuted Christians in need, through financial and legal aid, as well as raising awareness about religious freedom violations.
Michaela Koller, journalist and political scientist and religious freedom specialist at the International Society for Human Rights in Frankfurt, has chaired the organisation since 2016.
In recent years, the prize has gone to some leading Church figures, such as Card Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans (Iraq), and Card Joseph Zen, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, who dedicated the coveted recognition to all persecuted Christians in China
Last year the prize was awarded to Fr Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit and a great expert on Islam and the Arab world.