Yet another day in the city of Aden, Yemen; the nuns and the priest start the day with morning prayer in chapel. Following the prayer, Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil starts his little jobs at the chapel and the nuns from the Missionaries of Charity in the nursing centre get on with their tasks. Others at the care house greet the bright day by walking in the garden outside the convent – 4th March 2016, a normal day in Aden.
Who thought it wouldn't be the same again?
The nursing house was attacked that morning. There were gunmen dressed as guards who entered the premises, shooting the security guard at the gate and others in the compound. At the sight of militant attack some ran towards the building shouting and warning the nuns of the attack. They were shot dead.
Hearing the gun fires and cries outside, the five nuns ran in all directions. Sr. Sally fled to inform Fr. Tom and warn him to stay inside. Before she could reach the priest, she saw the militants to have entered the chapel; they grabbed Fr. Tom and walked him blindfolded to their cars.
Sr. Sally could hear the sounds of the gunshots at the nuns behind her and abduction of Fr. Tom in front of her eyes. In absolute state of trauma and terror, she went in the refrigerator room and stood behind the door. The attackers started looking for this fifth nun at the convent, they came in the store room, but miraculously could not see Sr. Sally who did little to hide herself.
Eventually they went away, killing 16 people in total, including four nuns at the convent and abducting the priest, Fr. Tom. Sr. Sally witnessed the brutal killing of her fellow nuns, who were tied up and shot in head; and their heads were then smashed to the ground.
‘Let’s be prepared for martyrdom’, Sr Sally remembered Fr. Tom’s words recently.
Being the only Christian presence in the city of Aden, Fr. Tom and others were aware of the dangers in the region, they could see it coming sooner or later on them.
Their steadfastness in the faith and preparation for their martyrdom for Christ’s sake are symbols of inspiration to us today. In spite of the terror and threat of life God’s faithful are committed to be symbols of Christianity in the world.
"Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10)
They are living scripture today in being faithful to His name till death; the question is what role are we playing in the tormented world today?
God might not be asking martyrdom from us today, but maybe, at least, He desires our care and union with fellow Christians and other minorities in their afflicts.
But we cannot stand united with these people if we refuse to read or listen about the sufferings around us. It is easy to shut our eyes to this brutal reality of Christian persecution. At times our minds refuse to reconcile with reality maybe because we are against it, we don’t like or it makes us feel stressed. Fair enough!
But are we not protecting ourselves today from the mildest influence of extreme events of the oppressed world which we are safe from? If Christians in conflict areas can bear the agony and die for Christ’s sake, can we not at least spare a moment's pain and stand united with them in Christ? Is terror not dividing us from being united in Christ's name today?
Let us live our part of Christian faith, let terror not divide us today.
It is only after our reconciliation with reality that we can improve this reality and change its direction.
Let us stand in solidarity with persecuted minorities and intercede for Fr. Tom who is still missing for three months now.
I am the Holy Name representative for Aid to the Church in Need.