An elderly nun in eastern India was brutally gang-raped by eight men.
The rapists entered the Convent of Jesus and Mary School, robbed the premises, then broke into the convent itself. They then trashed the school and convent, vandalized the church, and broke into the tabernacle stealing the chalice containing the sacrament.
Gang rapes have become disturbingly common in India in recent years. But the desecration of the church and convent is a reflection of a growing anti-Christian sentiment in India. Meeting last month, Indian bishops expressed concern about the growing level of violence directed at Christians. Five Delhi churches have been vandalized in recent months.
The first church attack in Delhi occurred on December 1 with the burning of St Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden, east Delhi. A week later, unidentified persons threw stones at Our Lady of Fatima Forane Church Jasola, near Okhla in south Delhi, and broke its window panes during the evening Mass.
On January 3, a mysterious fire reduced to ashes a Christmas crib kept inside the premises of the Church of Resurrection in Rohini, north Delhi. The fourth incident occurred when unknown assailants vandalized the Marian Grotto at the Church of Our Lady of Grace in Vikaspuri. In this case, the recordings of the CCTV cameras helped police to identify the culprits.
The rape of the elderly nun is only the latest outrage:
The men escaped with some cash, a cellphone, a laptop computer and a camera, all belonging to the school, the officer said. They also ransacked the school’s chapel and holy items, the Press Trust of India news agency cited the archbishop of Kolkata, Thomas D’Souza, as saying.
Scores of angry students, their parents and teachers blocked a nearby highway and railroad tracks for several hours demanding swift police action leading to the arrest of the culprits.
Mamta Banerjee, the state’s top elected official, strongly condemned the attack and ordered a high-level police investigation. D’Souza appealed to people to maintain peace and harmony in the area.
India has a long history of tolerance for sexual violence, but the December 2012 fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman aboard a moving bus in New Delhi caused outrage across the nation.
The outcry led the federal government to rush legislation doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalizing voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. The law also makes it a crime for officers to refuse to open cases when complaints are made.
Some analysts in India have suggested that the violence against Christians can be traced to the rise of Prime Minister Modi’s Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata (BJP). Indeed, in some cases the coming to power of Modi’s party appears to have emboldened Hindu fanatics:
Since the rise to power of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ethnic-religious minorities of India speak of an increase in attacks and discrimination against them. Often, the attacks also target the “intimate” sphere of the faith. This is the case of the case Pramod Sahu, the Christian owner of a garage, who January 24 last was attacked by about 25 Hindu extremists because he kept hanging an image of Jesus in his shop. Police have not arrested anyone. “The police reluctance to investigate – Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) told AsiaNews – is a huge problem and a violation of our judicial system. In addition to yet another injustice against the minority Christian “.
It may be jumping to conclusions to place the entire blame for the increased number of attacks on Christians on the BJP. There are socio-economic and cultural factors at work as well.
But Modi doesn’t appear to be doing much about it, which fuels fear among Christians that the authorities won’t enforce the law when it comes to threats against the Christian community.