A powerful story from The Catholic Thing of the persecution against Catholics in India and one nun’s amazing strength in fighting back, (reader alert, tough read).
After severing its colonial ties with Great Britain in 1947, India, a nation of 1.2 billion people, organized a secular Democratic Republic that guarantees freedom to practice and propagate one’s faith.
Christianity in India dates back to the Acts of the Apostles, but is the faith of only 2.5 percent of the population today. The total number of Catholics is 19.5 million…
In his work, Early Christians of the Twenty-first Century, award-winning Indian journalist Anto Akkara, who visited Kandhamal sixteen times, recounts how the anti-Christian violence was orchestrated, and records the testimonies of victims and their families. The volume contains “a collection of over one hundred true witnesses to Christ-testimonies soaked in blood, tested and purified by untold suffering.”…
There are many heart-wrenching stories in Akkara’s book, but one that particularly struck me involved a 56-year old priest and a 28-year old nun.
Father Thomas Chellan, director of the Divyajyoti Pastoral Centre, and his assistant, Sister Meena, managed to escape over a wall of their compound as Hindu terrorists destroyed the complex, which included a church, a large dormitory, and other facilities.
The next day they were captured and just before Chellan’s kerosene-soaked head was torched, there was a last second decision to hold off. Instead, a gang of fifty Hindus beat the priest and nun. “It was like a crucifixion parade,” Father Chellan later recalled.
Their tormentors stripped them of their clothing and began raping Sister Meena. Later they paraded their half-naked prisoners through the streets and Chellan was ordered to rape the nun: “When I refused, they kept beating me and dragged us to the nearby government office. Sadly, a dozen policemen were watching all this quietly.”
Finally, a senior policeman took them to a police station 12 km away and their ordeal ended. The next day they were released and flown to Mumbai for treatment.
Sister Meena, who recovered from her traumatic ordeal, refused to be silent. She went public, held a press conference in front of 200 television cameras in New Delhi and demanded an investigation into her rape. Sister described everything in gruesome details and how the police tried to dissuade her from lodging a criminal complaint after the mandatory medical test confirmed the rape.
“Maybe God wanted me to suffer with our people and become an instrument to speak up for the voiceless people of Kandhamal,” she told the media. Sister Meena concluded by publicly thanking God “for choosing me to face this humiliation and giving me the opportunity to suffer for the people of Kandhamal. I got a chance to undergo the experience of being crucified.”