4 Mother Teresa nuns killed, 1 Indian Salesian priest missing in Yemen
Published on: 6:54 pm, March 4, 2016 Story By: Matters India Reporter
New Delhi: Four Missionaries of Charity nuns, one of them from India, were among 16 people gunned down by suspected Islamic fundamentalists in the southern Yemen city of Aden.
Missing since March 4 morning attack is a Salesian priest from India, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, a resident of the Missionaries of Charity convent in Aden. The nuns have been managing a center for the elderly in Aden’s Sheikh Othman district.
Sr. Sally, the convent’s superior who escaped the attack, informed her contacts in India that no patient was killed. However, the attack was brief and ruthless, she added.
According to the superior, four gunmen stormed their center after shooting down their guard. They then opened fire indiscriminately.
Two of the slain nuns – Sisters Margherite and Reginette – were from Rwanda. The other two were Sisters Anselm from India and Judith from Kenya. The dead included two Yemeni women and two Ethiopian men working at the home, then nun’s driver and guard and other workers.
Sr Sally said there was no trace of the Salesian priest who was staying at the convent. The priest shifted to the convent in September 2015 when unidentified men looted and torched his Holy Family church in Aden.
The nun expressed the hope the priest might be hiding in some unknown place.
She said the police have taken custody of the bodies of the nuns and other victims.
Salesian sources in India they have no information on the origin of the terrorist attack. “It is known however that there are entrenched groups linked to the al Qaeda network in the Yemeni port city which was recaptured months ago by forces loyal to President Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi in a battle with Houthi rebels.”
The Missionaries of Charity nuns have been working in the war-torn country for years, a source close to the congregation’s headquarters in Kolkata told Matters India.
On July 27, 1998, three sisters of their nuns were killed in Aden by a lone terrorist.
The Missionaries of Charity arrived in Yemen in 1973 at the invitation of the Government of the Arab Republic of North Yemen. They set up a house in Hodeidah in 1973, and other at Taize a year later. They opened a house in Sana’a in 1976 and at Aden in 1992.
The sisters are still present in these four convents looking after mentally retarded and physically handicapped children as well as some aged and dying people.
Their agreement with the Ministry of Health provides for a residence visa for a priest for Hodeidah, Taiz and Sana’a.
The first Salesian priest to arrive in Yemen was from their Bangalore province in 1987. They landed in Sana’a and since then serve the four existing parishes in the country and provide spiritual assistance to the Missionaries of Charity.
Of late, only 5 Salesian priests and merely 20 nuns lived in the country. During the recent emergency three priests left the country after Easter. All the sisters remained in the country.
Church leaders in India have mourned the nuns’ death.
Bro. Mani Mekkunnel, International Secretary, Montfortian Education, said the religious of India are in communion with the Missionaries of Charity as four of their Indian missionaries have become martyrs in the hands of ISIS in Yemen.
“They died serving the poor in a home for the aged. The Indian Church has become the biggest missionary movement, being present in more than 160 countries. We pray that hatred and violence gives way to love and peace,” the former national secretary of the Conference of Religious India told Matters India.
One official said the attackers were ‘extremists’ and blamed the Islamic State group, which has been gaining ground in Aden in recent months.
But no group claimed responsibility for the first such attack in Yemen. The country has been caught between an Iran-backed rebellion on one side and a growing jihadist presence on the other.
A report in May 2015 noted that some 20 Teresa nuns remained in four houses in Sanaa, Ta’iz, Hodeida and Aden.
The news site aboun.org said churches in Aden were in extremely dire condition. There were three Catholic churches in the neighborhoods of Kreiter, Tawahi and Mualla that provided pastoral services to Catholic communities most of whom are foreign workers from India and the Philippines.
The source continued: “All have been evacuated, including the three priests who were located there. A priest remained there providing pastoral services in Hodeida Ta’iz, and Sanaa based on the security situation.
The nuns refused to leave the place leaving the poor and sick Yemenis. These nuns lacked all the basics of a simple life and missed the Holy Communion. Telephone lines were cut as they faced permanent problems with water and electricity supplies. The nuns refuse categorically to leave the country saying, ‘where will all these people who are staying in our homes go?'”
The Catholic church of the Immaculate Conception in Mualla Aden was destroyed in an aerial bombing raid during on May 12, 2015. The Houthi militias stormed the St. Anthony Catholic Church in Tawahi, Aden, and plundered all its contents.