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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Indian bishops demand police take action against nuns' attackers"

By Catholic News Service

NEW DELHI (CNS) -- The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India is demanding police officials take action against people who attacked Missionaries of Charity nuns in central India.

On Sept. 5, about 300 Hindu fundamentalists barged into a train coach and took four infants from two Missionaries of Charity nuns and two helpers, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. The nuns from Raipur were taking the babies, all younger than two months, to an orphanage their congregation operates with a government license in Indore, about 500 miles south of New Delhi.

Divine Word Father Babu Joseph, spokesman for the bishops, called the attack "heinous" and "most contemptible." In a Sept. 6 statement, he appealed to law-enforcement agencies to "take stringent action against the perpetrators of crimes against the hapless religious women who have given their life for the sake of the most unfortunate ones in society."

"It is most regrettable," he added, "that organizations that claim to represent Hindu interests show utter insensitivity toward those whose services are received by members of their own community."

Sister Mamata, one of the Missionaries of Charity nuns, recounted the incident to UCA News Sept. 8, saying that Hindu extremists entered their coach at Durg, about 25 miles into the journey.

The intruders shouted anti-Christian slogans and forced the nuns off the coach, she said. Some women among the extremists snatched the babies while others verbally abused Christian missionaries in general for converting the poor under the pretext of service, she said.

Police took the nuns, their helpers and the Hindu extremists to their office at the railway station. Sister Mamata said the police and Hindus had closed-door talks, while the police denied the nuns permission to use the station's telephone to seek assistance. She said the radicals forcibly took the adoption papers from the nuns, alleging they were false.

Someone who happened to arrive at the station allowed the nuns to use his cell phone to contact the Raipur archbishop's residence. Priests at the residence informed a Missionaries of Charity convent in Bhilai, and two nuns came to help their colleagues.

However, the Hindu radicals beat up one of the Bhilai nuns and their driver and deflated their vehicle's tires before police intervened, Sister Mamata said.

She said that even while the nuns were under police protection the Hindu extremists continued to abuse them.

"They even threatened to kill us, saying, 'This is your last journey,'" Sister Mamata recalled. She said the police kept the nuns and their helpers in custody and returned the sisters to the respective convents in Bhilai and Raipur by 3 a.m.

The infants were reportedly admitted to a government hospital in Durg, Sister Mamata reported.

"Come what may, I will fight to get them back," she said.

The incident occurred on the 11th anniversary of the death of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who founded the Missionaries of Charity. On that day, nuns at the order's headquarters in Calcutta prayed for peace in Orissa, where Hindu-Christian violence that began in late August had left 27 dead by Sept. 9.

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