Krishnanagar, India, Mar 17, 2015 / 14:51 pm
After the “heinous” rape of an elderly nun in the Indian state of West Bengal over the weekend, protestors have rallied in opposition to violence against women, with one Hindu priest tearfully voicing sorrow for the vicious act.
“He spoke about four or five sentences and then he broke down, he started crying. He said ‘(the) sisters have been doing so much good, and we have done such a wrong thing to her and degraded her,’” Bishop Joseph Gomes of Krishnagar (Krishnanagar), where the assault occurred, told Vatican Radio March 16.
A school run by the Religious of Jesus and Mary located in Ranaghat, 22 miles south of Krishnanagar, was broken into during the early hours of Saturday morning.
After tying the sisters’ hands and feet and placing them in the same room, one of the nuns – who was over 70 years-old – was taken to a separate room and raped by one of the intruders.
Bishop Gomes has since spoken with the nun, who was being treated in a Kolkata hospital; he reports that she was “calm and cool,” and that she had placed herself in God’s hands.
“She did not look disturbed, but as I was talking to her some tears had rolled down from her eyes,” he said, explaining that the religious sister harnessed no hatred for the man who committed the act.
“She has already forgiven, she has forgiven that man … she doesn’t think about revenge, she only thanks God that she is still able to control herself and control her feelings. But she wants justice.”
Along with hundreds of others, Bishop Gomes participated in a silent, candlelight procession held in his diocese Sunday to protest the gruesome act.
Crowds gathered at the diocesan cathedral to hear a speech about the incident and how women are frequently victims of such degradation before processing in silence with a candle in hand.
Not only Christians, but also Hindus and Muslims participated in the procession, the bishop noted, recalling how one Hindu priest stood next to him while they were walking.
After returning to the cathedral to hear two more women speak about the need to defend women’s dignity, they asked the Hindu priest to say something, Bishop Gomes recalled. However, the man didn’t get far, as he broke down in tears after a few sentences.
Since Saturday’s attack, thousands have raised their voices in urging India’s government to do more to protect the country’s Christian minority and to end violence against women.
On Monday the Archdiocese of Calcutta (Kolkata) held a large rally in which participants gathered to protest the crime, and called for an end to the “rape culture”in India.
While 10 men have already been apprehended for the attack, Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta said during the rally that while the arrests are “a welcome start,” not much headway has been made.
He urged the government to arrest all those involved in the attack – the rapist has yet to be identified – as soon as possible, and to “ascertain motives for such a heinous crime on a Christian minority institution involving the rape of an elderly nun in the convent.”
A Catholic church under construction was also vandalized in Haryana over the weekend, and the cross was replaced with an idol of a Hindu god.
On Tuesday Indian prime mininister Narendra Modi voiced concern for both events on Twitter.
In the two tweets Modi sent, he expressed his “deep concern” for what happened in the West Bengal provinces, and asked “for immediate report on facts & action taken regarding the incidents in Haryana & West Bengal.”
The Indian prime minister has repeatedly been criticized for his silence over the increase in minority persecution since his Bharatiya Janata Party came to power last May.
Modi himself has strong ties to a radical Hindu nationalist organization, the RSS, whom many claim are responsible for the increase in attacks against religious buildings and persons, both Christian and Muslim.
After repeated calls to speak out against minority persecution in India, Modi finally broke his silence after U.S. President Barack Obama called for religious tolerance in the closing speech for his recent visit, saying that India wouldn’t meet success if it was fraying at its religious seams.