Father Tom Uzhunnalil, the Indian priest who was released last month after being kidnapped and held hostage by Islamic extremists in Yemen for over 18 months, will be awarded the Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice.
According to ucanews.com, the Harmony Foundation in Mumbai this week named "Father Tom" as this year's recipient of the Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice, an award yearly "bestowed as an honour to individuals or organizations who aim to promote peace, harmony and social justice," according to the website.
Abraham Mathai, the founder of the Harmony Foundation, said the Salesian priest is a prime example of the theme of this year's award ceremony: "Compassion Beyond Borders - a compassionate response to the refugee crisis."
Father Tom "had the option of leaving Yemen in 2015 but he chose to stay and provide humanitarian aid in the midst of such terror," Mathai said.
The award recognizes his "dedication and commitment towards working in a place of great danger where his colleagues were murdered in cold blood," he added.
As reported, Father Tom was last year abducted by militants believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist group who raided a nursing home run by the Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity group in the city of Aden. The group killed 16 people, including four nuns.
It was initially rumored that the kidnapped priest was going to be executed on Good Friday 2016. However, shortly before Christmas, a five-minute video message was published on YouTube that showed the priest urging the Indian government and the Catholic Church to secure his release.
Father Tom was freed on Sept. 28 after 18 months of captivity. The day after his release, he met with Pope Francis and spoke about his detention.
According to the National Catholic Register, Father Tom said he was not tortured and the militants "did not behave badly towards me even once during the entire one-and-a-half-years", but said his ordeal was nevertheless "full of challenges."
"I had to wear a single cloth during the entire period," he said, and when he began to lose much weight, "they gave me medicines for diabetes." He said the militants "shifted the camp three times after the abduction" and blindfolded him every time during each transfer.
Still, he said he felt Jesus "next to" him every day during his ordeal.
"Truly, every day I felt Jesus next to me, I always knew and felt in my heart that I was not alone," he said.