A 71-year-old nun in eastern India was raped by a gang of young men who robbed a Christian missionary school. However, in an amazing act of courage, she wanted to forgive her assailants.
According to Rakhi Chakrabarty, Sumati Yengkhom and Ashish Poddar of the Times of India, she kept saying "Dil mein dard hai (My heart is broken)" while being treated in a Kolkata hospital on Sunday. The journalists reported that she prayed that the men who harmed her would be forgiven, which brought the hospital's visitors to tears.
"That's the greatness of a spiritual soul like her," a local whose son studies at the school told the Times of India. "But all of us want the miscreants behind such a heinous crime to be arrested and given exemplary punishment."
As for the incident itself, Harmeet Shah Singh and Ralph Ellis of CNN reported that the nun resisted the gang of robbers during the pre-dawn hours. The gang, which had seven to eight men, supposedly punished her with rape after she raised an alarm about the robbery.
"Physically, she is better. But the mental trauma will take its own time to heal," P.B. Salim, chief administrator of the West Bengal state's Nadia district, said.
According to CNN, the men also tied her up along with two other nuns and the building guard; no arrests have been made in connection to either the robbery or rape. Salim told CNN that the robbers escaped with laptops and cash worth a few hundred thousand rupees (thousands of dollars).
CNN reported that Father Dominic Emmanuel of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese condemned the attack as a "shameful act."
"It is a very, very shameful act, first of all, to rape any woman, any female," Emmanuel said. "But this one becomes even worse because, first of all, she is an old lady and then on top of it, she is a nun. She is a religious (and) has consecrated her life to God and all her life she has remained a virgin."
The Times of India reported that Sister Irene of the Religious of Jesus and Mary, alongside Mother General of the Order, boarded a flight from Rome to India to be next to the nun during her recovery.
"In all my life, I haven't heard of such an attack on a nun, an elderly nun, anywhere in the world, not even in conflict zones where we work," Irene said.
Irene added that she was relieved after meeting the nun at the hospital, noting that she was happy with the nun's treatment. However, a convent official told Times of India asserted that the incident could be considered an act of persecution, given that the chapel was desecrated.
"It is an attack on the religion," the convent official said. "They assaulted a consecrated woman who devoted her life to service and desecrated the church. It has hurt the Christian community deeply."
According to Times of India, the nun went into hospital on Saturday morning for treatment.
"Immediately, a team of doctors attended to her, and a senior gynecologist operated on her," the hospital superintendent said.
CNN reported that India's government has tried to introduce tougher laws and punishments related to sex crimes and harassment. However, sexual violence, which is mostly directed at women, continues to plague India.
"Experts say the causes of the high number of rapes include the nation's patriarchy, widespread poverty and lack of law enforcement in rural areas," Singh and Ellis wrote.