Friday, July 07, 2006

Even Mother Teresa's nuns aren't safe ...

Sandro Magister's latest newsletter focuses on India and the recent controversy caused by the Pope's remarks to the Indian Ambassador on religious freedom, and talking about increasing anti-Christian sentiments in the country, the anti-conversion laws and now, an attack on four nuns of the Missionaries of Charity last week.
On May 28, in the village of Nadia in the state of Madhya Pradesh, a group of fanatic Hinduists attacked and held hostage, for an entire day, five Christians – two women and three men. As they had all refused to renounce their faith, the women were raped, while the men were shot and wounded. The following day, local leaders of the BJP presented a denunciation against “mass conversions to Christianity” through the work of Christian missionaries. The five who were attacked were cited as “proof” of the crime. A few days later, Hindu activists broke into and interrupted a press conference organized by the Madhya Pradesh Christian Association to denounce the attack, at which the two women who had been raped were also present.

But “reconversions” to Hinduism, on the other hand, are encouraged, and are sometimes organized collectively with the support of the authorities. On June 23, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, one of the most active and widespread Hindu associations, celebrated in Sarat in the state of Orissa the conversion to Hinduism of 600 previously Christian tribals. The bishop of Sambalpur, Lucas Kerketta, commented: “In Orissa, the anti-conversion law is applicable only to conversions to Christianity, but when it comes to converting to Hinduism, police go to ceremonies and are mute spectators, becoming accomplices of Hindu extremism.”

But the anti-Christian act that provoked the greatest outrage was, on June 25, the aggression against four sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, in a hospital of the Hindu temple town of Tirupati, in Andra Pradesh, a state in which there is no anti-conversion law in force.

The four sisters of the Missionaries of Charity – Maria Julia, Chriselda, Emma Felesia, and Reena Francis – had come to the hospital to assist the sick, as they have done every Sunday for years, with the permission of the authorities. Surrounded by a crowd of 300 persons, including news broadcasters, and accused of converting the dying through coercion, they were held hostage until the arrival of the police, who placed the sisters under arrest.

They were freed, late in the evening, by the prime minister of the state, upon the request of the archbishop of Hyderabad, Marampudi Joji. The following day, the archbishop held a press conference together with non-Catholic representatives of the Christian Federation of Andra Pradesh. The sisters were authorized to resume their apostolate, and a judicial investigation was begun into the organizers of the attack. The Hindu fundamentalists, the archbishop said, “are pointing to the bogeyman of conversions to discredit our chief minister, who is Christian, and to bring down his government.”

The aggression against the Missionaries of Charity has no precedent in India. Their founder, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, is respected in India as a national institution, universally honored regardless of religious affiliation. What happened to the four sisters on June 25 marks the crossing of a critical threshold. Hinduist organizations have planned a demonstration in the capital, Delhi, for July 11, intended “to raise awareness in the population about the Christian danger.”

No comments: