Priest Mathew to YT: We do not Know who is Behind the Explosion and the Church Properties Should be Given Back [Archives:2001/02/Interview]

January 8 2001

Church is associated with Christianity just like mosque with Islam. That is, it has its own religious reverence. In Yemen churches are rarely found except for the city of Aden. To spotlight the church existence in Yemen and impact of the recent explosion targeting Al-Tawahi church, Yemen Times met with Priest Mathew Uzhunnalil, responsible for Saint Francis church in Aden and filed the following interview.
Q: Could you please tell us a bit about the church existence in Yemen?
A: I am an Indian catholic. The church in Yemen is deeply rooted in history. We teach poor people in local communities tolerance, peace, love, sympathy…etc. for all religions call for such human principles which breed good people. So many famous people learnt at the church like the Argentinean football player, Maradona. The church does not teach only these things. It also polishes skills of people in various fields of creation.
The church was found since 670 i.e. after the birth of prophet Mohammed. I have been told that the church reached Yemen after the death of Priest Partolomio and that there was a church in Sanaa but it was destroyed. In Aden, the church came with the British colonialization. We had churches in different places in Aden. With the advent of communists to power in Aden in 1967, the churchs properties were confiscated as its principles did not come a long with their communist principles. Before 1967, the churches that were found in Saudi Arabia, Qater, Bahrain, UAE and Oman were even supervised by 7 priests from Aden.
Q: What about the current position of the church in Yemen?
A: Parson Mathew has been doing his best with the Yemeni political leadership since his visit to Yemen in 1991 to take back the properties of the church. The visit of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to the Vatican and meeting the Parson John Paul in 1999 as well as the visit of Mr. Abdulqader Bajamal, Minister of Foreign Affairs invited very good reaction. They both ordered that the properties of the church should be given back. I have heard that some Islamic groups oppose this but I believe the orders of the president and Bajamal should be implemented because Muslims have mosques in the European countries.
Q: Can we relate what you said with the explosion that happened to the church?
A: There are only three churches and temples in Aden; one in Al-Tawahi, second in Crater and the third is in Al-Mualaa. The temple of Aden is no more there. I know about the explosion that caused heavy damage to the church buildings. However, I can not say who did that.
Q: What is the main problem you face as Christians in Yemen?
A: Actually, we do not have any problems except for getting the properties of the church back in accordance with the orders of the president and minister of foreign affairs to the local authority in Aden. We know that the land of the church has been sold. We are waiting for the right time to get also the schools of the churches back. These schools are used for teaching which we can also do. I hope the orders of the president and foreign minister see the light of day.
Q: Any last comment?
A: I would like to thank all people cooperating with us in Aden, the British Embassy and you, the Yemen Times for your concern. I wish Yemen and President Saleh all success and prosperity.