16 March 2015, The Tablet

Solidarity and prayers for gang-raped Indian nun, 71

Thousands of Catholics were expected to march in Kolkata today to show their solidarity with a 71-year-old nun who was gang-raped in her convent late on Friday night.

Prayers were said at churches across India on Sunday for the nun, who was assaulted by thieves who broke into the convent school in eastern West Bengal state and ransacked the premises, police said.

The robbers gagged a security guard before assaulting the nun. They then entered the principal's room and stole cash, a laptop and a mobile phone.

Arnab Ghosh, a police superintendent who visited the convent near the town of Ranaghat, 50 miles north of the state capital Kolkata, said the robbery appeared to have been carefully planned.

"CCTV footage showed that six men, aged between 20 and 30, scaled the boundary wall around 11:40pm and entered the school and disconnected the telephone lines," Mr Ghosh said.

"At least two of them were armed and the rest were carrying burglary tools. In the chapel, a holy scripture was found torn and ... a bust of Jesus was broken," he added.

Four of the six attackers have been identified through CCTV footage and a reward of 100,000 rupees (around US$1,500) is on offer for any leads on the suspects.

The nun is recovering in hospital in Ranaghat.

The gang-rape has added to the sense of fear and dismay among the country's Christian minority, UCA News reported. India’s Christians have been troubled by a spate of attacks on churches which Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently pledged to crack down on.

Fr Savarimuthu Sankar, a spokesman for the Delhi diocese, said: "Even if you call it an isolated incident, the background and the atmosphere for such an attack had already been there, so you cannot simply ignore it as a one-off incident.”

The incident is the latest high-profile sexual assault in India. Last week the Indian Government banned a documentary about a December 2012 gang-rape, sparking domestic and international condemnation.

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