09/06/2008, 00.00
INDIA

India, sisters of Mother Teresa assaulted by Hindu radicals and arrested by police

by Nirmala Carvalho
The fundamentalists attacked the religious, accusing them of the "kidnapping and forced conversion" of four children between one and two years old. Although their identification documents were in order, the children were taken away from the sisters and put in a government hospital. Tough condemnation by the Indian Church.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The Missionaries of Charity are again in the crosshairs of the fundamentalists: yesterday, September 5 - the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta - four sisters of Mother Teresa were attacked by about 20 Bajrang Dal activists at the Durgh train station in Chhattisgarh, a state in central India. The Hindu radicals forced them off the train, and then handed them over to police officers while chanting anti-Christian slogans.

The Hindu fundamentalists accused the sisters - Sr Mamta, the mother superior, Sr Ignacio, Sr Josephina, and Sr Laborius - of the "kidnapping and forced conversion" of four children between one and two years old, whom the religious were taking from their home in Raipur to the Shishu Bhava charity center in Bhopal. The activists followed the women to the police station, "insulting them and chanting slogans against the Christians".

The sisters presented all of the identification documents for the children and their travel permit, in addition to other documentation brought later by the religious from the house in Bilaspur. In spite of this documentation, the children were taken to be housed temporarily at the government hospital in Durg, while the documents and identity papers presented by the sisters are verified by the judicial authorities.

"The mob threatened to beat us up, but I was not afraid", Sr Mamta tells AsiaNews. Her only concern is for the children, who require care and assistance, "but most of all our love. We love these darlings like our own, that is our pain".

The sister says that she "prayed to Mother Teresa" (yesterday was the anniversary of her death, and her liturgical feast day), entrusting the "well-being of the children" to her. She emphasizes that this new episode of "persecution" is an integral part of the missionary task of "witnessing to Christ" entrusted to them by the founder of the order. Although she got no sleep during the night spent at the police station, the following morning - today, September 6 - she took part in Mass, "thanking God and our beloved Mother Teresa".

The Indian Catholic Church has taken a tough stance, through the head of the bishops' conference, who denounces the climate of hostility and terror toward Christians. "I am absolutely shocked", says Cardinal Osvaldo Gracias, "at the baseless and fabricated allegations of conversion levied against the Missionary of Charity". The prelate stresses that he knew "Mother Teresa personally, and I was also involved with her mission, and I can vouch for the fact that never has any baby or anyone been converted by the Missionaries of Charity, either in the remotest rural area or in any part of the world".

In condemning this new attack against the Christians, Cardinal Gracias accuses those who "are instrumental in poisoning minds" and foster interconfessional confrontation: "This is a climate of intolerance [against Christians] that is growing in the country, and it will have serious drastic long-term effects on Indian society".

This new episode of violence against the sisters confirms the growing climate of hostility toward Christians, in the crosshairs of the Hindu fundamentalists who are seeking by every means to eliminate their mission and their charitable works in the country. The tribals, the Dalits - untouchables - and the many orphaned children find in Christianity and in the activity of the religious a way to improve their condition and bring dignity to their lives. By attacking the Christians, the Hindu fundamentalists are above all harming India and its people, anchoring it in a feudal and backward past, based on the hierarchy determined by caste and by slavery.

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