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Christian Student Killed in Spate of Boko Haram Attacks in Northeast Nigeria

Ambore Gideon Todi – photo: Facebook

(Morning Star News) – Among several Boko Haram bombings that have put northeastern Nigeria on edge this year was a suicide attack on Christian student organization quarters that killed a Christian student, sources said.

Ambore Gideon Todi, a 21-year-old student at the University of Maiduguri in Borno state, was staying in the Evangelical Church Winning All’s student ministry tent when Boko Haram suicide bombers detonated explosives in mid-May, according to leaders of the school chapter of the student ministry.

Joseph Kamida Cham, a Christian leader from Todi’s native Gombe state, told Morning Star News that a friend of Todi’s also staying in the Christian student quarters had decided to travel just prior to the bombing.

“When Ambore’s friend returned from his trip and could not find him during the student ministry fellowship, that made him to start asking questions,” Cham said. “It was later disclosed that Ambore was mistaken for one of the suicide bombers that died.”

School authorities had reported that one army member along with three suspected suicide bombers were affected by the blasts. The school decided against announcing that any students were affected, fearing the school would be closed, Cham said.

Leaders of the university ECWA student ministry confirmed the killing shortly after his death, Cham said.

“It is believed that he was not the only one affected by the bomb blast, as there were others involved and were in their fellowship program,” he said, saying he was close to Todi’s family. “The authorities did not say anything about their demise till after nine days. We knew of his death because he is from my state.”

Only after Todi’s friends alerted authorities to his disappearance nine days after the bombing was he identified as a victim of the bombing, he said.

“He was identified as a victim through his shirt found at the scene of the attack,” Cham said.

Williams Abba Todi, the student’s father, announced the killing in a post on Facebook on May 22.

“KILLED BY BOKO HARAM,” he wrote. “The management of the University of Maiduguri has today officially informed us of the death of our son AMBORE GIDEON TODI killed in the suicide bombing. Ambore rest in the LORD as you were killed in the Church on active service give us consolation you are on the right hand of GOD.”

Williams Abba Todi could not be reached for comment.

Cham said Todi was the only member of his family to have gone to university and the only male child.

“He was the only child of the family who went beyond secondary school,” Cham said. “He was in Physics Department and in his 100 level.”

The family is from Biliri, Gombe state.

Maiduguri has been the site of a series of bombings and attacks by Boko Haram terrorists who aim to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria. They have also attacked predominantly Christian towns of Borno state such as Chibok, Gwoza, and Uba since January.

In an attack on a mosque in Maiduguri on Monday (July 17), at least eight people were reportedly killed when a female suicide bomber detonated explosives. Since being driven out of captured territory by military counter-insurgency operations, Boko Haram has increasingly used women and girls, presumably kidnapped, to carry out suicide attacks.

The previous week, four women reportedly detonated explosives in a suicide mission in the Molai Kolemari area of Maiduguri, killing 19 people and injuring 23 others.

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims account for 45 percent.

Voice of the Persecuted is on the ground in Nigeria to care for our Christians experiencing brutal persecution. If you would like to show your love and support for those who’ve faced unimaginable persecution, please support our Nigerian mission project, today.

We are committed to being a VOICE for persecuted Nigerian Christians and bring them comfort, relief, and encouragement. We have committed to a long-term mission in Nigeria. When they are able to return home, we will be there to encourage and help rebuild villages and their lives. They will not be forgotten!

We want you to know that even in great hardship, they thank God and feel extremely blessed that He has kept His hand on orphan-306x4601them. They have been so encouraged and thankful for each one of you who have joined this mission through your prayers and support. Your gifts have brought so many smiles. THANK YOU!

Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
You may also send your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

If the Lord is placing it on your heart and you are able, please help us to continue the mission in Nigeria. It will be a long term project. Donations always desperately needed

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EGYPT: Soldier Beaten to Death for His Christian Faith, Relatives Say

The body of Joseph Reda Helmy. (screenshot)

(Morning Star News) – Egyptian military officers beat a new soldier to death on July 19 upon learning that he was a Christian, relatives said.

Joseph Reda Helmy of Kafr Darwish village, Beni Suef Governorate, had just completed training at Mobarak military training center and was transferred to Al-Salaam special forces police unit, where three officers killed him, relatives told Middle Eastern media. The Egyptian army told relatives Helmy died of an epileptic seizure.

His father, Reda Helmy, told Al Karma TV by phone that his large, strong son had arrived at the camp at 2 p.m. and was dead by 8 p.m. In the same program, the deceased’s cousin, Youssef Zarif, said he received a message at 2 a.m. on July 20 from the Ministry of Interior to come and retrieve Helmy’s body.

When Zarif arrived, he asked to meet an officer and was initially rebuffed. Eventually he met with an officer who told him that Helmy had died of an epileptic seizure. Zarif refused to believe the army explanation, saying Helmy was a healthy, quiet person loved by all in his village of Christians and Muslims. The heavily Muslim country has population that is about 10 percent Christian.

He told Al Karma that the extensive bruising he found on the body did not look like those of an epileptic episode. He said Helmy had bruises on his head, shoulders, neck, back and genitalia, with the worst injuries occurring on his back.

The doctor who examined the body refused to bow to pressure from those who brought it and reported that the cause of death was not natural, Zarif said. A prosecutor accompanying the family firmly concurred and demanded an investigation, he said.

Zarif said he thanked the doctor and prosecutor for not trying to cover up the truth.

The three officers who attacked his cousin are in custody and under investigation, he said.

Zarif said he learned from police and other soldiers that the three officers began to harass Helmy because of his Christian faith, and that the marks on his body indicate they kicked him with their boots and hit him with heavy instruments.

Another cousin, Malak Youakim, confirmed the killing to Alhorreya.TV. Youakim also said Helmy was attacked for his Christian faith.

A Christian leader in Helmy’s home village said many there are in mourning.

“Many women are wearing black, a sign of mourning for the death of one of their Coptic youth,” he told Morning Star News. “Many are sharing the graphic pictures of the bruised body of Joseph Reda Helmy, a new draftee doing his military service.”

He said Helmy had been in the army for only month when he died on July 19.

Several other Coptic Christians have died for their faith while serving in the Egyptian military. On Feb. 17, 2016, the Egyptian military informed the family of Michael Gamel Mansour that the 22-year-old conscript from Assuit had committed suicide. Authorities claimed Mansour, who was assigned to a unit that guards El Gomhoreya Stadium in Cairo, shot himself with a rifle. They asserted that moments before his suicide, Mansour became despondent after a telephone conversation with members of his family.

Sources said they do not believe that Mansour killed himself. Family members have said the phone conversation the military cited was about innocuous issues. Mansour was not dealing with any major problems and gave no signs that he was having any sort of psychological episode, they said, and no suicide letter has been found.

Mansour had been scheduled to be discharged from army service on July 1, 2016, according to family members. His case marked the third time in nine months that the government reported a Coptic Christian soldier committing suicide. A fourth Christian was killed in August 2016, according to the government, in a shooting incident in which no one has been criminally charged.

On Nov. 20, 2015, the military informed Nataay Boushra that his son, Private First Class Bishoy Nataay Boushra, a second-year conscript soldier in the Egyptian army, was dead, also a victim of suicide. Boushra, 21, served in the Central Security Forces (CSF), a ubiquitous, 450,000-man unit under the command of the Ministry of Interior used to augment the Egyptian National Police. Boushra was posted to the outskirts of Cairo, guarding the CSF barracks used by his duty section.

According to the military, Boushra was found dead the morning of Nov. 20, 2015 in the bathroom of a military jail cell with a sheet wrapped around his neck. Officials told Nataay Boushra that his son hung himself from a windowsill.

Nataay Boushra rejects the government’s claim of suicide. His son was deeply spiritual and considered suicide to be a grave sin. During his army service, he was in regular contact with his family and gave no indication of any depression before his death. He was just three months away from being discharged from the army and pursuing his lifelong dream of becoming a monk.

As with the case of Mansour, the military made its ruling that the cause of Boushra’s death was a suicide before an autopsy was performed. At the morgue, the family refused to take the remains until officials conducted an autopsy, but while waiting, Nataay Boushra and his brother were able to examine the body. In addition to the ligature marks expected from a hanging or strangling death, Boushra’s torso was covered with bruises and huge welts from what appeared to be sustained, brutal beatings.

For months before his death, according to his father, Boushra endured threats, violence, intense verbal abuse and public humiliation from a fellow draftee, a Muslim known to the public only as “Mustafa.” Boushra took the abuse in stride until Nov. 4, when the Muslim soldier launched into yet another tirade against Christianity. Boushra picked up a stick the size of an ax handle and hit the other soldier in the head, knocking him to the ground, according to military court testimony.

The soldier was taken to a hospital for examination and then released. Both men were arrested and placed together in a jail cell awaiting a hearing in a military court.

For reasons still unknown, another soldier who was a friend of Mustafa was later locked in the military prison cell with Boushra and Mustafa, the same cell in which he was later found dead, according to the military.

REMINDER: 12-hour Prayer Event for the Persecuted Church – Saturday July 29

JOIN THE CALL!

Source: 12-hour Prayer Event for the Persecuted Church – Saturday July 29

Persecuted Christians in Thailand being denied asylum

Pakistani Christian asylum seekers brought to court caged in police van in Dec. 2015

(Voice of the Persecuted) The early church faced much persecution but continued to thrive; today, the persecution exists at an even greater scale.

Matthew 5:11 states, “Blessed are those that are persecuted.”

Many Pakistani Christians who’ve fled to Thailand are very familiar with ongoing aggressions against them. They’re stuck in a limbo after being sucked in a whirlpool of discrimination, persecution and incarceration, all due to their faith in Christ Jesus.

Thousands of persecuted Pakistani Christian brothers and sisters in Thailand sought refuge in UNHCR Thailand. After years of waiting and suffering the brutal incarceration in the Immigration Detention Centre, many of them have been rejected by the UNHCR, with very little chance of getting refugee status through appeals.

Two of our families, that have been part of the Voice of the Persecuted relief project in Thailand, were recently rejected by the UNHCR. Many of you may remember John, a little boy who was brought to us malnourished and very sick. His family has been rejected based on what the UNHCR considers insufficient information to explain the level of threat they would have faced if they had stayed in Pakistan. John’s family maintains their stance of death upon return and have appealed against the decision of UNHCR with hopes of getting a positive result.

Jackson’s family was rejected in the beginning of June. They, like others who’ve been denied asylum, were given 30 days for appeal. The young father is on bail from the IDC and is worried that his appeal would be instantly cancelled and he would have to return to the IDC, estranged from his wife and 1-year old son. Jackson has made a very hard choice to go back to Pakistan as the UNHCR promised to give him airfare and $100 each if they decide to be repatriated. However, this offer would be void if Jackson appeals against the UNHCR decision.

Sadly, the majority of Christian asylum seekers have had little or no luck with their appeals. Majority of them have been rejected and their files have been closed, their UNHCR cards taken away and they are left hopeless to survive on their own in a ruthless country.

Before mid-2015, many Christians were freed on a bail bond of $1400 each, on reason for their registration with UNHCR and further conditions were added including ineligibility to work and reporting to the prison every 15 days. After the UNHCR started rejecting cases, for many it meant that their bails would be cancelled and they are required to return inside the IDC with their children and elders.

Many are opting to go back to Pakistan and risk their lives in a desperate effort to survive. In April, a woman named Asia Johnson sadly went back to Pakistan. Voice of the Persecuted had been able to pay her overstay fine in December 2015 and subsequently she was bailed with the help of another charity. Her appeal was refused and her cards were taken away, as a result, her bail was cancelled. She was given an ultimatum to return to the IDC with her 2 young daughters, the youngest being 6 years old. She described the IDC as hell and decided to move back to Pakistan. She has moved to another part of Pakistan in hopes of hiding from her persecutors. Since, she has been untraceable to us. We pray for her protection and safety as she could potentially face threats due to her faith in Christ. This is the story of hundreds of Pakistani Christians who have been re-persecuted by the UNHCR and are left with no choice than to go back to face persecution for their faith in Christ.

Please continue to keep our aid missions in your prayers. We have been trying to increase our mission in Thailand but are unable to do that without help. We have been sustaining support for Jacksonn’s and for John’s family as they fight for their claim to be approved, but we have been struggling to maintain ongoing funds for our families. Please pray for them. Continue to support our mission through your prayers.

God bless the persecuted church.

1 John 4:19 states, “We love because He first loved us.” Let us continue to share our love bestowed upon us through our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
God bless us all.

By our Asian correspondent

Join us during our 12-hour prayer conference call, today. We are expecting to speak with and pray with a Pakistani brother between

Time of the Call:

9 a.m.- 9 p.m. Eastern time

8 a.m.-8 p.m.  Central time

7 a.m.-7 p.m.  Mountain time

6 a.m.-6 p.m. Pacific time

Call number: 712.775.7035
Access code: 281207#

Please pray for persecuted Christian families suffering in Thailand. Pray the Thai government will soften their hearts towards them. And pray the UNHCR will find a way to speed up and fairly investigate the unbearably long process of their asylum cases.

VOP is on the ground in Thailand. Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
You may also send your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

MALDIVES: Maldives Ruling Party Should Repudiate Attacks on UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns the verbal and online attacks against UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed.  The statements by the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the online postings of at least one religious scholar include harsh criticism and accusations that Shaheed is an apostate from his Muslim faith. The denunciations of this advocate for religious freedom have even resulted in calls online for his beheading.

According to reports, statements from the PPM, the party of current President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, accuse Dr. Shaheed of spreading “evil deeds” among Maldivians.  “As if this were not enough,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga, who recently met with him in Oxford to discuss religious freedom, “the party also called on the public to speak out against Shaheed’s ‘irreligious’ activities, which resulted in online postings accusing him of apostasy and calling for his beheading.  Coming from the ruling party, this is nothing less than government-sanctioned incitement to violence.  That is unacceptable in the Maldives or any other country.”

Shaheed is currently the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.  In this key position, he is mandated to “identify existing and emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief and present recommendations on ways and means to overcome such obstacles.”  Freedom of religion or belief is intimately linked to freedom of expression.  Dr. Shaheed is being attacked by political and religious figures in his home country for exercising his freedom of expression on a variety of issues spanning several countries.

One reported Facebook posting by an alleged religious scholar called for Muslims who have expressed views such as Shaheed’s to “repent,” and if they do not, “Their heads will have to be removed [from their bodies] as a non-believer.  [This has to be] implemented by the ruler.”  Postings and statements such as this and those by the PPM have resulted in numerous explicit, violent threats against Dr. Shaheed as well as his family.

USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark added, “The PPM should retract its statements threatening Dr. Shaheed and condemn in the strongest possible terms any calls for action against him.  Rather than inciting violence against a fellow citizen, the PPM should protect Dr. Shaheed and indeed any other Maldivian citizen who exercises his or her right to freedom of expression. A government is responsible for protecting its citizens, not being complicit in threats to their lives.”

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties.

‘Risk of genocide’ linked with level of religious freedom

(World Watch Monitor) Yemen is the country where the risk of genocide, or mass killing, rose most last year, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in its 2017 Peoples Under Threat index, which also includes a large number of countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

Nine of the Index’s top 12 are also in the top 12 of Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List– namely Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Nigeria.

MRG calculates its annual index based on a number of indicators directly linked to the level of freedom of religion and expression, including democracy and governance, conflict data, and displacement.

Yemen, for instance, ranks 8th on the MRG Index and 9th on the WWL. The civil war that erupted there in 2014 has caused chaos and lawlessness, creating a climate where oppression can flourish.

Radical Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State have exploited the power vacuum in Yemen to gain significant influence. Christians have been killed and abducted, including 16 people killed in an attack on a Christian care home for the elderly in March 2016.

According to MRG’s index, which lists the top 70 countries most at risk of genocide, mass killing or systematic violent repression, two-thirds of the countries where this risk has risen are in Africa.

Also, an increasing number of people are living at “deadly risk” in a growing number of “no-go zones” around the world. MRG says its reports shows “how a lack of access from the outside world allows killing to be perpetrated unchecked in disputed territories, militarized enclaves, and in some cases, whole countries… International isolation is a known risk factor for genocide or mass killing”.

Syria, for example, leads the list for the third consecutive year and, according to the report, UN human rights officials have been “granted no access to Syria since the crisis began in 2011”.

Cholera outbreak

Meanwhile the civil war in Yemen has so far killed more than 8,000 people and injured over 45,000 civilians. The fighting between Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the north and the Saudi-backed government in the south has furthermore displaced more than 3 million people – over 10 per cent of Yemen’s population – reports the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHA says these figures are most likely lower than the reality because of the lack of reporting capacity and people not having access to health centres.

Those who have not been killed or injured in the fighting might still lose their lives in the largest ever recorded cholera outbreak in a single country in a single year, aid agencies warn. With a crumbling health system, with less than half the country’s hospitals operational and a lack of available medication, nearly 2,000 people have died of cholera so far, with an estimated 5,000 Yemenis becoming ill every day. More than 600,000 Yemenis could have cholera before the end of the year, the International Committee of the Red Cross has warned.

Detroit judge blocks deportation of Iraqi immigrants for 90 days

A woman holds a sign and cross as members of the local Chaldean community demonstrate June 16 outside the Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building to protest the arrest and detention of more than 100 Chaldean Christians from the Detroit area. (CNS photo/Jim West) See CHALDEAN-PROTESTS June 19, 2017.

Detroit (Agenzia Fides) – A judge Mark Goldsmith in Detroit has temporarily halted the deportations of Chaldean Christians and other Iraqi immigrants ordered last June by virtue of the new immigration rules implemented by the Trump Administration. The measure had already been temporarily blocked by the same judge for shorter periods, and all the suspensions ended yesterday, Monday 24 July. Yesterday’s new ruling by Judge Goldsmith also took note of Iraqi citizens who referred of the risk of being subjected to violence and persecution once back in the country of origin. Goldsmith also pointed out that the criminal and judicial cases weighing on many of the Iraqis threatened with deportation were actually “dormant” cases. The judge declared that the constitutional rights of Iraqi immigrants, many of whom have long been resident in the United States, have been violated, and that guarantees for the protection of fundamental freedoms can be suspended only in rare cas es of foreign invasion or internal insurgence.

The Iraqis already arrested on June 12 at the disposition of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE, US Federal Agency responsible for border control and immigration) were 114, but potential expulsion measures threatened about 1,400 immigrants from Iraq. Most of the Iraqis already arrested (see Fides 11/7/2017) lived in the area of Detroit and belonged to Chaldean Christian families. The operation was implemented after the agreement between the United States and Iraq with which the government of Baghdad had agreed to host a number of Iraqi citizens subjected to the expulsion order, while being removed from the black list of affected nations from the so-called “Muslim ban”, wanted by President Donald Trump to prevent access to the United States for citizens from six Muslim majority countries considered as potential “exporters” of terrorists. Even some of the arrested Christians had in the past had problems with justice.

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako also intervened on the case: in a letter to Chaldean Bishop Frank Kalabat, at the head of the Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle in Detroit, the Primate of the Chaldean Church expressed solidarity and closeness to Iraqi families affected by the provisions of expulsion, and hoped for an adequate solution to the humanitarian emergency caused by the expulsion measures, also directed against family men with small children.

Now Iraqi immigrants, at risk of deportation, have three months to arrange their legal strategy with their lawyers to render ineffective the expulsion orders issued by the ICE. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 25/7/2017)

In June, protesters against federal agents’ rounding up more than 100 Iraqi-American immigrants told local media that those who were detained had no prior warning that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would be arresting them.

The report shared that U.S. Democratic Reps. Sander Levin and Brenda Lawrence of Michigan joined members of the Chaldean Christian community gathered in front of the Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building. They held up signs, crosses and American flags, venting their frustration against federal authorities who detained their father, brothers and uncles, many of whom have been in the community for decades.

Late June 20, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington released a letter that conference officials sent to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, urging him from a moral perspective to defer deportation of the individuals apprehended by ICE, particularly Christians and Chaldean Catholics, “who pose no threat to U.S. public safety” and would be sent back to a region where the persecution of religious minorities continues.

VOP note: Please speak out and pray for our Iraqi brothers and sisters to remain safe in our country.

Church relieved as Yemen confirms kidnapped Indian priest is ‘alive’

Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil

(World Watch Monitor) The Church in India, especially in the southern state of Kerala, is breathing a sign of relief after Yemen confirmed to India’s foreign minister that Catholic missionary Father Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped in Yemen in March 2016, is “alive”.

“We are thrilled to hear that good news,” Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the autonomous Syro-Malabar Church, to which the kidnapped priest belongs, told World Watch Monitor.

Abdulmalik Abduljalil Al-Mekhlafi, Deputy Prime Minister of Yemen, broke the news to Sushma Swaraj, Indian External Affairs (foreign) Minister on 12 July when they met for bilateral talks in the Indian capital.

“We are very hopeful now. The news brings great joy to us,” V A Thomas, first cousin of the kidnapped priest, told World Watch Monitor from their home in Ramapuram, near Palai, in the Christian heartland of Kerala.

“We are very happy with the developments and hope he will be released soon.” -V A Thomas

Father Uzhunnalil, 58, was kidnapped on 4 March in Aden in Yemen, from the Missionaries of Charity home for the elderly. Four nuns were murdered, along with 12 others, during the attack by unidentified gunmen.

While a first false rumour was of the crucifixion of the kidnapped priest on Good Friday 2016, a video of him in captivity surfaced around Christmas 2016, with the visibly unkempt and ailing priest urging the government of India and the Church to ensure his release from captivity.

That led to a series of assurances from the government of India, while the Catholic Church organised several demonstrations, including a day of prayer and candlelit vigils, urging the government to ensure the kidnapped priest’s safe release.

second video appeal by the priest surfaced on the Internet in May, with the priest stating that serious efforts have not been made by the Church or the government to ensure his release. “They are treating me well to the extent they are able,” Fr Uzhunnalil said slowly in English. “My health condition is deteriorating quickly and I require hospitalization as early as possible.”

“In that video appeal, Father Tom had even requested us [his family] to put pressure [on the government] to ensure his release,” said his cousin, V A Thomas, who was also headmaster to Father Uzhunnalil when he was a student at the local Catholic school in the 1970s.

The extended Uzhunnalil family clan, Thomas pointed out, had been “consistently pleading with everyone to ensure Fr Tom’s release” and have called on several top government leaders.

After the second video emerged, Thomas said that he led a four-member Uzhunnalil delegation to meet P Sathasivam, the Kerala Governor, along with Oommen Chandy, former chief minister of Kerala, on 31 May.

Three days earlier, the federal government had dispatched Richard Hay, a Christian Member of the Indian Parliament (who’d been nominated by the ruling BJP government), to the family in Palai, to assure them that the government was making serious efforts “to bring the back the priest home safely”.

“We are very happy with the developments and hope he will be released soon,” Thomas said.

However, he added that “due to the big public interest in the safety of Fr Tom, there are reports that the demands of the kidnappers have gone up”.

The External Affairs Ministry in its press statement said that the foreign minister has “stressed the government’s concern for the safety and well-being of Father Tom Uzhunnalil … and reiterated the request for continued assistance from the Yemeni authorities in securing his safe and early release”.

According to reports, terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are said to have bases in parts of Yemen, resulting in instability in the country.

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