New Delhi (AsiaNews) – “Sister Rani Maria was rewarded by God” and became a “martyr”. This “is a gift”, said Sister Selmy Paul, Rani Maria’s actual sister, who spoke to AsiaNews about her own path of faith and her journey towards forgiving her sister’s murderer.
Sister Rani Maria was killed on 25 February 1995 in a contract killed by a farmer who did not know her. He boarded the bus on which she was travelling and stabbed her to death.
Sister Selmy Paul, 45, is ten years young than her sister. Her parents had five girls and two boys. Rani was the second eldest and she was the sixth. Both joined the Clarist Franciscan Congregation. Her sister took her vows in 1974; she did in 1984.
“When I was brought to her coffin, seeing her dead body, I was overcome with grief and sadness. I was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and the sight of my beloved sister brought floods of tears and I began to fight with God,” she said.
“Looking at the Crucified Christ, that was placed near the coffin, I questioned God. How could he allow my sister to be so brutally killed? I couldn’t understand. How could God allow my sister, who only served the poor people, to be abandoned by everyone and be killed, only because of her service in His name. After a while, still sitting beside her coffin, I began silently meditating on the Passion of Christ and in my deep prayerful intimacy with the Crucified Christ I heard a clear voice saying: She was not alone, my mother and I were with her.”
“Immediately, my entire body was filled with peace. My feelings of anger and rebellion vanished. I was calm and found courage. I looked at my sister. She looked so peaceful in her coffin. I prayed to her for the grace to forgive her assassin. During the 105-kilometre funeral route, from Indore to Udayanagar, my constant prayer was for God to console our parents and for the grace to forgive.”
“At that time, I was undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer. I had been diagnosed in September 1991 and had started treatment. My sister often visited me and would encourage me. She also talked about her work in the villages and the challenges she encountered there.”
“I was posted in the Provincial House in Bhopal. My syster, Sister Rani Maria, who was a provincial counsellor, travelled from Udayanagar to meet me, something we did often. In December 1994, she told me that there were some problems in the village. She told me about the tense situation in the village and said that she was she was very concerned about the poor Tribals, who were living in an atmosphere of intimidation and precariousness. However, she told me, ‘I am not afraid of dying for the poor people’. She asked me to pray and offer my sufferings for the Mission of the Church among Tribals and poor people.”
“In 2002, the congregation’s provincial and the bishop of Indore granted Sister Selmy Paul permission to visit the assassin in prison. Previous requests had been rejected; sometime because of demands for justice on Sister Rani Maria’s behalf.”
“After all the necessary paperwork was done, I, accompanied by Swami Sachidanand, a CMI priest, travelled to Indore Jail. During the trip, I was anxious about how he would react to her.”
“When the murderer saw me he wept and fell prostrate at my feet. Trembling and weeping, he begged me for my forgiveness. It was a moment of grace,” Sister Selmy said. “At that time, I could not think; I could not even remember my sister’s dead body and her murder, nothing. God gave complete and total grace. Meeting this man, who was so repentant, was very emotional for me. I shed tears of love and forgiveness. God gave me grace so that I could forgive him from my heart, and accept him as a brother. That 21st August 2002 is forever marked in my memory: the faithfulness and tenderness of God and the joy of forgiveness.”
“The following year, on the anniversary of her death, my mother visited Samandar Singh in prison. She too forgave him and kissed his hands, the hands ‘that made blood gush forth from my daughter and sent her to heaven.’ She welcomed him as a son, and on the next anniversary of her death, my brothers and sister too embraced him as a brother. Forgiveness is a grace.”
“In 2007, Samandar Singh came to our ancestral home in Kerala and met my ailing father. By the grace of God, my father too welcomed him as a son. He died soon after, on 30 July 2007, in peace.”
“After my sister passed away, I saw signs of her blessing. I am now cancer-free and peace has returned to the village where she worked and died. Our home congregation has also been blessed.
“My sister, Sister Rani Maria was rewarded by God” and became a “martyr”. In “our family, we are not proud of this, but rather see it as a blessing and a gift.”