International News

Christians Demand Justice After Rape of Nuns
by Ecumenical News International, September 23, 1998
Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2000 07:29 pm CST

NAGPUR, India (ENI) - All Roman Catholic schools and institutions in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are closed in protest following the rape of four nuns in the rural district of Jhabua. Many organisations across India are also planning protests, rallies and public meetings to express their concern and their solidarity with the victims.

About 2:00 am on September 23, the nuns, belonging to an order which provides medical care to rural areas, were taken from their convent in Nawapada village in the district of Jhabua to fields nearby, where 20 men assaulted them. The nuns, all aged less than 35 and from Pondicherry, in southern India, are receiving medical treatment and counselling.

The home minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shri Harbachan Singh, announced a reward of 50*000 rupees (approximately US$1000) for information about the attack, and five people have already been arrested.

The attack has been seen by some commentators and organisations as part of rising violence against Christians.

The following day a convent in Uttar Pradesh, in northern India, was looted by a group of armed men. About 30 nuns and novices in the building were terror-stricken by the attack. The convent chapel's crucifix was destroyed, the tabernacle was smashed and the consecrated hosts were thrown onto the floor.

In the state of Madhya Pradesh, opposition political parties are pressing for an official investigation into the assault on the four nuns and have accused the state government of being incapable of dealing with the crime. Many political and other leaders have already visited Jhabua district to express their deep concern, and church organisations and national unions have written to newspapers to condemn the crimes. The national government in New Delhi has received many official complaints criticising the attack on the nuns.

In a strongly worded letter to Indian government leaders, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, Archbishop Alan de Lastic, said that the Christian community was feeling "insecure and disturbed at this increasing violence against them in different parts of the country". He added that India's image had "taken a battering" because of the attacks on nuns.

A leading Roman Catholic organisation, the All India Catholic Union, has demanded a high-level inquiry by the National Commission for Minorities and the Human Rights Commission. The All India Catholic Union has claimed there is "a well planned conspiracy against the Christian community" whose priests, nuns, and evangelists are being "targeted in coordinated violence".

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