Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) - "I have met many people who have walked the road with me, giving me constant support, love and encouragement. Their presence and their care have given me the strength to forgive my rapists and reconcile myself with what has happened to me. " This is what Sister Meena Barwa, the Servite religious order, raped and humiliated by Hindu extremists in Orissa during the pogroms in August 2008, says. Three years after the violence the young nun has chosen to share her pain and his concerns, with which she has strengthened her faith and her closeness to Christ. "In my life - she says – I have been forced to suffer incredible pain ... I consider this torment a blessing. And now I can understand the suffering of others at a deeper level in a Christian spirit. "
Sister Meena, now 29 year-old, was born in the district of Sambalpur and worked at the Pastoral Center Divyajyoti K Nuagaon in the district of Kandhamal. Her rape occurred on 25 August 2008, when together with a priest, Father Thomas Chellan she was seized, beaten, stripped and made to walk around the village. At some point, the fundamentalists wanted to burn her alive along with the priest. Only at the end, in the late evening, while still being abused and beaten, was she released by the police (See: AsiaNews.it, 25/10/ I, Sr. Meena, raped by Hindus while police stood watching) .
So far, the Orissa police has arrested 22 people linked to the rape. Of these, 17 were able to get out on bail.
Here is the complete text of Sister Meena’s testimony given toAsiaNews.
My life has changed after the unfortunate incident (rape). It has taken “u” turn for me. I could say that it was trying and testifying moment for me. Although I have accepted all those untold events in the light of faith, it was a journey with Jesus. In the aftermath of the rape and anguish, I still suffer. I have undergone untold pain in my life. I have met so many people on the way who have journeyed with me as well giving me constant support, love and encouragement. Their presence and care gave me strength to forgive the perpetrators and I am able to reconcile with what had taken place.
Sometimes, I could not share with them my deep-seated struggles that I experienced in my heart. There were moments in which I shied away from known people, but I befriended with strangers due to my situation. There were times, I was left alone. I got time to pray, reflect and continue to discover God. On the other hand, I do experience moments in which I feel depressed and sad. Then I open my Bible and read the Word of God and be inspired and strengthened. Let me say one incidence: some time ago, I was all alone and I grieved so much. I questioned God saying why God made all these suffering for me. That time, I opened the Bible and I got Jn 15:18-19 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” Meditatively I read it and reflected a lot. It was so meaningful, inspiring and spiritually soothing. I felt that it was Jesus who was speaking to me personally. With his powerful words, I looked beyond my negative feelings and thoughts, and was drawn to his divine presence.
Ever since my suffering and distress, I have become closure to God. I have become something new person. My faith has gained new understanding, vigor, dynamism and paradigm than before. I am happy, yet something is still missing I feel.
I take this torment one way as blessing for me. I am now able to understand the sufferings of others in a deeper level and Christian spirit.
What has happened to me should not happen to anyone. I still suffer. It happened after my final profession (1 June, 2008) and the rape and humiliation took place on August 25, 2008. Although it was so painful, I have accepted it as if it was a final profession from God. In the aftermath, my parents and relatives have suffered much more than I do. They have placed so much trust in God. They have loved me fore than before. They have given me irrevocable encouragement saying that I need to move on. They further told me to draw strength from Blessed Mother Mary, who suffered in her life, yet she remained faithful and obedient to God. They also told me, “Be happy. It is in the knowledge of God that you had to suffer. You are filled with God’s power and grace to undergo and experience pain and agony. He will take care of you.” Such words from my relatives really comforted me so much beyond my comprehension. I feel loved by my family members and the Hand Maids of Mary congregation.
Now I firmly believe that suffering is something that happens. I do not regret what has happened. I accept suffering which is in the knowledge of God.
Personally speaking, I wish that the court trial case should finish by now that it lingers for unforeseen time. But when I see it in a broader sense, if we do not fight, I feel that I am committing sin for not fighting for justice despite what has happened. We may feel also guilty that we did not fight enough, fight to the finish. Our fight must go on so that perpetrators may not dare to do such things to others—our innocent poor Christians, marginalized, least, lost and the downtrodden.
Thus our legal battle should strengthen our cause. We know for sure that our legal cases are not merely for us, they are ultimately for and behalf of our people. Many men and women have suffered during and after the Kandhamal pogrom. Their tears of sadness and cry should not go wasted. They deserve justice and mercy. So, our legal cases should instill a sense of justice in the people of the land. Court cases would send pertinent signals that the perpetrators cannot or should not go on unpunished for their heinous crime that they have committed on the people of Kandhamal district. In view of this, my case should go on.
Justice is not only for me. It is for them. In the name of the suffering, I say that I had to carry on my suffering. And people should get justice and undeniably government should be taken into task for this. Our people have to be courageous, which does not mean never being scared. It means acting as you know you must, even though you are undeniably afraid.
First of all, when I think of Kandhamal pogrom, my first thoughts go to those people who lost their precious lives in the genocide. All of them are martyrs like the early Christians of the Church. They have died for Christ and for their faith. I pray for them. I am proud of them.
People who have witnessed the Kandhamal riot are also not less. I am proud of them too and admire their faith and resilience to move forward in life.
From the ashes of Kandhamal, the Church in Kandhamal will rise. The people of Kandhamal continue to rise to the occasion and have started to gather broken pieces from their remnants and ruins in order to restart their lives. Thanks to God for providing grace and power to them.
Above all, I have lived and work with and for the people of Kandhamal. I belong to them as well. People of Kandhamal have become part of life.
I see the Christians of Kandhamal as true disciples of Christ. They will turn everything to harmony, peace and justice. All people would understand and benefit out of these, healing division and hatred, bringing the divine ray of hope and light to all, including those who oppose the Gospel and its followers.