Sister Rani Maria was killed in 1995, stabbed 54 times. The murderer was a radical Hindu, incited by village leaders, who wanted to stop the nun's activities in favor of tribal poor. The path "that led me to forgive Samunder Singh has not been easy, but now he's my brother." Instead, "my mother said once: 'I would kiss his hands, because on them there is the blood of my daughter'." The exchange of the Indian bracelet that celebrates love between siblings; the moment of encounter with the victim's mother.
Indore (AsiaNews) - "Samunder Singh, who murdered my sister, is the person who has taught me the true meaning of forgiveness. Through the death of Sister Rani Maria, my family and I have experienced the unconditional mercy of God”: says sister Selmy Paul, a Franciscan Missionary Poor Clare in India. She shares with AsiaNews, the story of her family which has forgiven and welcomed into their home like a son the radical Hindu who on February 25, 1995 killed Sister Rani with 54 stab wounds.
"At the beginning - she says - when I learned of the murder of my sister, my heart was full of pain and resentment. I believed that I could never forgive those who had done such a cruel thing. Instead, little by little I began to feel the grace of God, which led me to forgive Samunder. Now I consider him my brother”.
Sister Rani Maria was a young Franciscan nun. Born in Kerala, she had moved to the diocese of Indore (in Madhya Pradesh) to work at the service of the local poor population, mostly tribal. The missionary spent her life in favor of the villagers, for whom she was able to obtain bank lines of credit and tax breaks for the cultivation of land. She created support groups for women and also helped in the most strenuous jobs, such as building a well for clean water to drink and irrigate the fields.
Her social work, however, became "inconvenient" for the Hindu leaders of the village, who had always held the tribals in check by granting loans. In the event that the farmers were not able to repay the loans, the leaders took possession of their crops and land.
The"official" loans obtained by sister Rani Maria were a threat to the business interests of the Hindu leaders, who decided to incite and arm a poor Hindu, Samunder. He, sure of their support, committed the murder of the nun in front of dozens of witnesses, while she was on a bus on her way home.
Immediately after the murder, however, the murderer was repudiated by his family and by those who had used him to eliminate the nun.
Sister Selmy says: "Samunder believed no one could forgive him. But Pope Francis says “Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive. And mercy can have two basic meanings. On the one hand, mercy is a decision to show forgiveness or compassion to someone in need which is expressed through acts of kindness, generosity and love. On the other hand it is the decision to pardon someone who is guilty. This is expressed in the form of forgiveness. In forgiveness we stop blaming and accusing the person and start understanding and excusing the person. That is what Jesus did on the cross, a merciful understanding of his executioners and excusing them saying, Father forgive them for they know not what they do… ( Lk: 23: 33-34)".
This, she continues, " is the meaning of forgiveness for Samunder as well. He was in need of our generous love and kindness and forgiveness". It was not an immediate reaction after the murder, confessed Sister Selmy, who earlier was "shocked by the news." The spark that triggered something inside her, she continues, "waswhen I touched the wounded body of my sister I remembered her words. I have no fear to die for the poor for the sake of Jesus and my heart became light. I sat down pondering on her words… over her death…. Her great wish to die for the poor is fulfilled, but I could not control my feelings. How she was abandoned left all alone on the street….bleeding and dying inch by inch”.
But after the memory of the last moments of her sister's life, Sister Selmy looked to the Crucifix: "He strengthened me and empowered me with his grace of unconditional forgiveness to the murderers of Rani my sister. I understood very well that they are only instruments of God’s hands. I felt that Rani is awarded for her selfless services for the poor".
Even "my brothers and my family - still - have received the same gift of mercy. One of them, Stephen, hugged me during the funeral and told me: 'Rani is lucky. His desire to serve the poor until the end has been fulfilled ''. The mother then, was the one who immediately forgave Samunder. Sister Selmy recalls: "When she came to Udainagar to visit the tomb, I asked her what she would do if she met Samunder. She simply replied: 'I would kiss his hands, because on them there is the blood of my daughter'. "
And concluding path that led her to forgive Samunder, in 2002 Sister Selmy met him in prison. Contact was made through Swamy Sadanand, a local priest who dedicated his life to resolving disputes among the population.
The meeting took place in prison on the day when the Indian festival of brotherly love is celebrated: "I tied the Rakhi [a red bracelet that symbolizes the bond between siblings] around Samunder’s wrist. At that moment I accepted him as my brother. " A few years later, after the nun’s family managed to secure the release of the man by appealing to the governor, the brothers and mother welcomed him as a family member. In a touching meeting in Kerala (see the video) between the woman and the now repentant murderer she embraced him and then exclaimed: "You are my son. I'm glad you came”.
God’s mercy has also acted on Samunder, who over time became aware of his act and has repented. Today he "lives about 30 km from our monastery," says Sister Selmy. "We have a close spiritual bond. He often comes to visit us, and every year on the anniversary of the death of Sister Rani pays tribute at her grave and provides the wheat from his field as a symbol of renewed life. This is the way in which he proclaims God's mercy".
(Taken from the documentary film "The Heart of a Murderer", courtesy of the director Catherine McGilvray)