The recent rape of an elderly nun during an attack on a Catholic school run by the Religious of Jesus and Mary (RJM) in eastern India’s West Bengal state has been roundly denounced by Christians and members of other faiths in a nation where there seems to be no letup in episodes of violence against women and their rights. In the early hours of March 14, robbers broke into the Convent of Jesus and Mary school in Ranaghat, in Nadia District, and inflicted physical violence on the nuns, including the rape of an over 70-year old nun and the desecration of consecrated hosts, India’s Catholic bishops have said.
Sr. Monica Joseph of India is the superior general of the Religious of Jesus and Mary nuns worldwide, headquartered in Rome, Italy. The international congregation founded in 1818 in France by St. Claudine Thévenet, is active in 28 countries in Europe, Asia, America and Africa. No sooner had the outrage of March 14 taken place, than Sr. Monica rushed to Ranaghat from Rome to be close to her sisters. In a press release dated March 20, Sr. Monica Joseph strongly condemned the incident at the Convent of Jesus and Mary.
Below is the text of the press release:
The incident that took place on the dawn of 14th March 2015 at our Jesus and Mary Ranaghat convent is unfortunate and we strongly condemn it.
The violation of the dignity of a woman in this incident is against our culture and tradition, but I plead with you, let us not focus on this one issue, let us bring to the fore the many voiceless and illiterate women and children in various parts of our beloved country and the world at large that go unnoticed and ignored. Let us focus our energies and resources to safeguard the girl child. It is our duty to ensure the dignity and safety of all women and children.
We are deeply pained that our chapel, which is our place of prayer and worship was desecrated. Let us resolve today to ask God to give us the grace to inculcate in all, respect for all religions and places of worship.
On our part, and especially on behalf of Srs. Gladys, Bridget and Shanty, we have forgiven the miscreants, this is our legacy left behind by Jesus and our Foundress St. Claudine Thevenet. But definitely we want justice. Let the culprits and the mastermind behind this gruesome deed, be brought to book, not for our sake alone, but to safeguard thousands of suffering, silent women and children. They should not be let off scot free to continue destroying and wounding other vulnerable persons.
All the miscreants were young men between 22 to 30 years: they are our youth. That these men could vandalize and terrorise sisters speaks not only of the evil within them, but in our society as well. What went wrong? The welfare of a society/nation is our responsibility. We are accountable for not providing good value based education and employment for the youth…
It is in our hands to change the world and make it a safer place for us now and for the future generations. This is our responsibility.
We, the Jesus and Mary sisters, as per the legacy bequeathed to us, pledge once again to give of ourselves fully and totally to God and to the cause of value based education, in and through our schools, colleges and other institutions. This is our gift and our pledge, that all who pass through the sacred portals of our JM institutions be harbingers of peace, forgiveness and love, respecting and working for the dignity of women and the girl child.
On behalf of the sisters of Jesus and Mary, and especially our three sisters in Ranaghat, I thank you all profusely and profoundly for your incessant prayers and constant support which we received from all quarters in India and the world…you have prayed for the sisters who underwent this traumatic experience and this has given them and us, the grace and fortitude to face this agony. Through this, we have experienced personally as our foundress St. Claudine would say, the goodness of God in and through each one of you. We can never ever thank you enough… every person who has felt our pain and expressed solidarity in various ways: prayers, presence, letters, phone calls, emails etc, we thank you. Only God alone will repay you for your gestures of solidarity.
We wish to thank the various institutions that stood by us. The Charity and SMI sisters, the parish priests of Ranaghat who were there with our sisters in our absence, the Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, priests and the various women’s congregations who came from miles around. We are grateful to the Govt., the administrative and police authorities of West Bengal, the hospital staff and people in the various departments who have reached out to us. Thank you one and all.
Let us resolve today to ask God to give us the grace to respect all human life, especially the girl child. And let those who go against this norm of love and respect be brought to task and taught that we will not tolerate these barbaric acts, because it is against God.
May God bless each and every one of you, and your families today and always… Thank you once again for your prayers and support.
Monica Joseph, RJM
Ranaghat, 20th March 2015