India, funeral for Catholic nun murdered by Coal Mafia
by Nirmala Carvalho
Sister Valsa, 53, of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, had worked for 20 years with the Santal tribals in the region of Dhumka. A gang shot her in cold blood in front of her house. In the past she had received numerous threats from members of the local mafia for issues related to settlements close to the coal mines. Local bishop: "Her martyrdom strengthens and renews the Church's mission in India."
Dhumka (AsiaNews) – The funeral of Sister Valsa John, originally from Kerala took place this morning in the cathedral of Dumka (Jharkhand State). The Catholic religious was gunned down on the night of November 15 last by a group of unknown persons. Among the crowd that filled the cathedral, the brother, sister and two nephews of the nun, who for 20 years dedicated her life to the Santal tribal region. Bishop Julius Marandi of Dumka, told AsiaNews: "Her violent death was a terrible shock and a great loss to the Church. We seek justice, but while we mourn this loss, our mission for the poor, the weak and voiceless will continue, strengthened and renewed by the blood of Sister Valsa, who now intercedes for human rights, justice, dignity and hope of these people. "
There have been no official statements yet regarding the murder of Sister Valsa, which took place in front of her house, but many suspect the coal Mafia, which operates in the region, is responsible. The Catholic nun, 53 years, belonged to the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary and several times had been approached by local crime gang member, for issues related to the coal mines. "Our sister – says her elder brother MJ Baby, - had told us about the threats, but was firm on her positions in favor of the tribals. I did not think the would kill her. " The family had seen the nun for the last time in August, when she returned to Kochi for a brief visit.
Fr. Tom Kavala, SJ, who has worked for over 15 years with the nun, told AsiaNews: "Sister Valsa created a tribal organization to stop the expropriation of land sought by the powerful coal lobbies, including helping them to obtain compensation from companies. Six years ago, one of these lobbies e tried to buy out nine villages and Sister Valsa mobilized the local poor people. These coal barons lodged 33 complaints against her and her supporters, and many of them ended up in prison".
"Sister Valsa - said Mgr. Marandi - paid for her struggle for the poor and defenseless, against the interests of the powerful coal mafia with her life. The Church of Dumka and all Jharkhand pray that her martyrdom will renew the mission of the Church to be a witness of faith. "
After taking her vows in 1984, Sister Valsa started teaching economics at St George High School in Kochi (Kerala), but soon left teaching to devote her life to mission among the Dhumka tribals. In 2007 she was arrested for protesting against a coal mine built illegally on land of the tribals in the district of Pakur.