Evangelical Leaders Join Pope in Speaking Out for Slain Nuns
CBN News has learned that the militants who killed four nuns at a Yemeni retirement home, also abducted a priest.
Father Tom Uzhunnalil, a native of India, was handcuffed and taken away by the attackers. There's no word of his condition or location.
Meanwhile Christian leaders around the world are reacting to the tragedy.
"Modern-day martyrs." That's what Pope Francis called the four nuns killed in the attack on the Catholic-run nursing home.
"They are not in the news, but they gave their blood for the church," the pope told a crowd in St. Peter's Square.
Gunmen stormed a retirement home run by the nuns in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden late last week, killing 16 people, including four nuns from Missionaries of Charity, an order established by Mother Teresa.
The website Agenzia Fides reports two of the nuns were Rwandan, while one was from Kenya and another Indian.
Yemeni security officials and witnesses said the killing spree began with two gunmen who first surrounded the home for the elderly in Aden while four others entered the building.
The gunmen then moved from room to room, handcuffing the victims before shooting them in the head. A nun who survived and was rescued by locals said that she hid inside a fridge in a storeroom after hearing a Yemeni guard shouting "run, run."
The attack drew condemnation from a diverse group of evangelical leaders.
"There is a legitimate attempt at genocide against religious minorities in the Middle East," Dr Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in a released statement. "I call upon the United States government and other world leaders to respond more forcefully and immediately to protect these terribly endangered people."
Similar sentiments were echoed by the World Evangelical Alliance.
"We stand together fearless in the face of terror and request that global leaders recognize the existential threat against the world's Christian communities and other religious minorities," WEF's secretary general Bishop Efraim Tendero said.
"God forbid we look back at history and know we could have done more to keep so many innocent people from dying," he continued. "Freedom of religion is a fundamental freedom and it is has never been under greater threat."
In addition to the four nuns, six Ethiopians, one Yemeni cook, and Yemeni guards were among those killed.
A witness said the surviving nun was crying and shaking. There are around 80 residents living at the home.
"Their death was tragic but their life was not," Dr. K.P. Yohannan of Believers Church India said in a prepared statement. "They poured themselves out in service of the poor at great personal sacrifice."
"We thank God for their service and we are inspired by their testimony, their willingness to live - and even to die - for Christ," he said.
Vikas Swarup, spokesman for India's External Affairs Ministry, said the attackers had asked the guard to open the gate on the pretext of visiting their mothers at the retirement home.
"On entering inside, (they) immediately shot dead the gatekeeper and started shooting randomly," he said, adding that the assailants escaped soon after the attack.
Missionaries of Charity nuns also came under attack in Yemen in 1998, when gunmen killed three nuns in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida.
Aden descended into lawlessness after a Saudi-led coalition recaptured the city from Shiite Houthi rebels last summer.
Yemen's civil war has split the country in two. The northern region, where Shiite rebels are in control, has been struck by an extensive air campaign by a Saudi-led coalition. The southern region, which is controlled by the internationally recognized government backed by Saudi Arabia, is suffering from a power and security vacuum.
Islamic State group and al Qaeda affiliates have exploited the lawlessness and created safe havens in the south.
Al Qaeda controls several southern cities and Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a wave of deadly attacks in Aden, including a suicide bombing that killed the city's governor and several assassination attempts on top officials.
Aden's churches have also come under attack. In the summer, a Catholic church in the district of Crater was torched and sabotaged by Islamic extremists.
Yemen's war has killed at least 6,200 civilians and injured tens of thousands of Yemenis, and 2.4 million people have been displaced.