Father Tom Uzhunnalil Released

Father Tom Uzhunnalil

Christians in the Arabian Peninsula give thanks to God for the safe release of Father Tom Uzhunnalil, a Salesian Priest from India, who was abducted in Yemen on 4th March 2016.

In a statement issued on 12th September, the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia confirmed that Father Tom had been freed and offered thanks to all who have upheld him in prayer over the last 18 months. Oman’s Ministry of Information announced that Omani authorities had played a role in securing his release, through liaison with parties in Yemen.

Father Tom was abducted during a raid by a group of gunmen on a care home near Aden in which 16 people were killed. There had been uncertainty about his whereabouts and condition since the abduction. The care home in Aden raided by the gunmen was operated by sisters of the Missionaries of Charity. The 16 people killed in the attack included four missionary sisters (two from Rwanda, one from India and one from Kenya) and several of their helpers (including some from Ethiopia and some Yemeni Muslim staff). Father Tom was staying at the care home at the time of the raid.

 – with thanks to the Apostolic Vicariate of South Arabia and to Middle East Concern.

Christ Church Aden

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As of today the situation in Aden is that all the windows of Christ Church, its associated clinic, and the guesthouse have been blown out as a result of blast waves from sustained shelling on the mountain that dominates our compound in Tawahi.  But we are told that all our staff are safe so far, and for that we thank God.  The general state of Aden is terrible: lack of fuel means lack of electricity, and telecommunications and even basic movement around the large city have become hugely difficult.  Food is limited, and money to buy it even more so.

Our administrator is very thankful for the many prayers that he knows have been made for him, for all who work at Ras Morbat, and for the people of Aden and the Yemen as a whole, a country sorely abused by those with the power, if they chose to use, to promote the common good to the glory of God.

+ Michael Cyprus & the Gulf

Three places of conflict: Pray

In a Middle East full of conflict and heartache please pray in particular for three places in our own diocese. They are all dear to us.

In Baghdad worship continues unimpeded and the life of St George’s is strong. Fr Faiz Jerjes and his wife Nawal are at the centre of the community. The kindergarten and early-years school, the clinics, the bookshop, and the ministry of food distribution are still the signs of commitment that they always have been. But the nation of Iraq is under huge threat from Da’esh or IS fundamentalism and the strain is bound to affect all who live there, Christians especially. There are many internally displaced people, from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. Others are refugees in neighbouring countries in appalling conditions. A certain number have departed for good from the Middle East, and others long to, but they know that their native land will always be Iraq and their hearts are troubled. Pray for all traditions of Christianity in Iraq, remembering especially His Beatitude Louis-Raphael I Sako, the Patriarch, who knows St George’s and Faiz well. Pray for Muslims, Yezidis, Mandaeans, and others. Pray for politicians to be bold and honest and for the people to be comforted.

In Aden we hold our breath in a still unfolding national crisis affecting the whole of the Yemen. The former, deposed president, Al Abdullah Saleh, is deeply implicated in the Houthi rebel advance and plainly wishes to regain power by any means. A little while ago it was necessary for the Revd Velvet John and his wife the Revd Vijaya John to relocate to India when things became too dangerous for foreigners. Our Roman Catholic neighbour, the priest at St Francis, has had to do the same in consultation with his bishop. Our Pakistani family at Christ Church also left, at the last possible moment, for Pakistan via Djibouti. Our clinic has, at the time of writing and again at the last possible moment, suspended its work, mainly because medical staff are unable to travel to Ras Morbat each day. The redoubtable and outstanding Mansour Khan, general administrator and, as it were, father to Ras Morbat and its community, is watching ceaselessly as the crisis develops. Pray for him, for Viyaya and Velvet, for the people of the beleaguered city, and for order and justice to come to the Yemen at last.

Finally, and sadly, conflict of a different sort continues to trouble the Dubai chaplaincy and the priest whose licence I withdrew after much reflection in January still persists in operating without authority and in confusing and misleading many. Pray for all the people and for faithful pastors, especially Fr Tim Heaney at Jebel Ali, who holds my licence, and for Diane his wife. Pray for the reputation of the chaplaincy, gained through forty and more years by the firmness of its witness, the decency of its worshippers, and its known anchoring and rooting in the worldwide Anglican family, to be restored and enhanced.

In Christ.

+ Michael

Aden Update

The political problems in Yemen are only now featuring in the international news headlines. It has taken some real effort to track the developments in Yemen over the past three months in English language media, but the increasing unrest has now progressed toward outright civil war. Houthi troups loyal to former President Saleh have swept down from Sanaa and are in the process of taking over Aden. President Hadi’s exact whereabouts are unknown – he is purported to have fled the country but his supporters maintain his is still in control of Aden. As Saudi-led coalition air strike bombards Sanaa the crisis deepens into a proxy war between other Middle East countries who fear each others’ influence.  Coupled with strong sentiment among many in the south that a return to divided Yemen is the solution of their local problems, the present conflict has many layers and complexities.

Until the last couple of days when shooting and looting have become more widespread, the clinic in Aden has continued to operate as normal, seeing 40-50 patients each day. The staff show courage and tenacity enabling the clinic to continue to serve the Yemeni people. There has been no fighting in the area immediately around the clinic. Fr Velvet and Vijaya returned to India for the time being because everyone involved felt that the presence of foreigners on the property increased the risk for everyone. The church community however continue to meet on Fridays when they can travel freely in the city.

There are strikes and demonstrations in Aden. There has been an arial bombardment of the residence where President Hadi was staying but we are told nobody was hurt. There has been armed conflict between government fighters and supporters of the Houthi movement. It is clear that a civil war will be inconclusive and only deepen the confusion, poverty and basic survival factors for the Yemeni people throughout the country. What’s more, it will also give more scope for IS and AQAP to extend their influence among the tribes.

As always, we covet the prayers of our friends and supporters. Please pray for the eventuality of reconciliation and lasting peace. Please remember that there are many Christians in the country from African and subcontinent nationalities who are also caught up in the unrest and insecurity. Pray too for the safety of the staff as they travel to and from work, and for the church community as they have some distance to travel to meet with other believers. We think of them especially as they celebrate Easter.

May God continue to work in and through his people to reflect his righteousness and peace.

Aden Update March 2015

Fr Velvet and Vijaya are currently in India with bookings to return in a month.

With the decision to relocate the President’s office to Aden and reconstitute the recognised government from the presidential office in Aden, a period of confusion and some fighting erupted in the streets of Aden. The government is in the process of consolidating power. Of course, there is a lot of firing in the air as well, which is also very dangerous. There is considerable uncertainty about peace and security in Yemen as a whole and in Aden at the moment. If the government is successful in re-establishing itself, civil security in Aden will return to normal soon and it will be possible for Velvet and Vijaya to return after things settle down.

Mansour continues to watch over the Christ Church compound and clinic. The clinic is functioning more or less normally. Because the area around the clinic is largely military (naval) there is less likelihood of rioting in the immediate vicinity of Christ Church unless civil (and military) authority collapses entirely. There is still a credible threat from Al Qa’eda supporters, and there was an assassination of a high military official recently in Aden. Mansour is advising us of the security situation as it evolves. We covet prayers for Yemen, its people, for peace and security for all, but also for our staff and their families and for the ongoing work of the clinic where people continue to be received and treated as an expression of God’s care for them.

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