Vandalism, death threats trigger fear in Ambernath convent nuns

Published 09 February 2005  |  
Bombay – Tension ran high in Ambernath, the otherwise quiet suburbs of Bombay, after some unidentified vandals smashed a cross and scattered threatening leaflets outside Pushpa Sadan convent, an old–age home run by nuns, recently, leaving the residents of the convent shaken and terrified.

This attack, one of the latest in the series of persecution perpetrated on Christian missionaries by hardline Hindu outfits who accuse the former of converting poor, low–caste Hindus by luring them with money, took place in the early hours of the morning of January 23.

"Around two in the morning, we heard the sound of motorbikes outside the gate and then the sound of something being struck and broken," said a nun at the convent, on conditions of anonymity.

Later in the morning, a neon–lit four–feet tall red Cross that was mounted in the yard of the convent was found lying on the ground, smashed. Several leaflets lay scattered nearby, all signed 'Hindu', containing death threats.

"The Home was set up three years ago and we have never had any problem before. We received a lot of cooperation since we moved in here. There had been no opposition from any quarter so far, hence we are surprised by the attack", said Sr. Diana, superior of the Teresian Carmelites Convent. “Our shell–shocked sisters heard the noise and were watching the movement of the miscreants from behind the closed doors for fear of life. This is the first time we have received such threats. We are all still heart broken really.”

Sr. Diana, who is also Bombay archdiocesan coordinator for the Prison Ministry said the miscreants also left handwritten pamphlets in English and Marathi language ordering the nuns to leave the place. “We are not scared as we have dedicated our lives for the service of the poor and needy,” she said.

The Pushpa Sadan convent, run by three Catholic Teresian Carmalites, was set up in the northern Bombay suburb of Ambernath three years ago.

Presently, the convent, which houses 17 inmates, including 12 elderly women, who are taken care of by the nuns, stands on a plot donated by Eric DiSilva, a non–resident Indian and parishioners from the nearby Our Lady of Fatima Church.

The nuns of the convent has reported the attack to the police and have handed over the leaflets, which bore slogans such as 'run away we will come back,' ‘go away, this country is ours’ and 'now it is the Cross, next time it will be your head'.

Sr. Diana, who was away in Kerala at the time of the incident, has filed a case of intimidation, desecration, trespass and damage of private property with the Ambernath police station against the unidentified persons.

In response, the police have promised that they would provide protection to the convent by patrolling the area at night. However, according to news reports, they are yet to determine the identity or motive of the attackers.

The All India Catholic Union [AICU] and The Bombay Catholic Sabha [BCS] have strongly condemned the unwarranted attack on the convent and have demanded that the police bring the culprits to book and restore the confidence of the Christian minority community.

“We urge the Police and the Government authorities to provide police protection and apprehend the culprits immediately,” said Dolphy D’souza, national vice–president, AICU. He said Christians in the metropolis were a law abiding and peace loving community and the “intimidation and terror tactic” of the Hindu group against the nuns would not be tolerated.

Christians account for about 2.5 per cent of India's more than 1 billion people.

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