ROME— An 81-year old nun was kidnapped and raped by four men on Tuesday night near Bolivia’s largest city, after assailants intercepted her car as she was coming back from a pastoral meeting.
The attack comes against the backdrop of several other recent cases of violence against religious sisters.
In a statement released by the Bolivian bishop’s conference and the diocese of Coroico, some 60 miles from La Paz, two of the men who raped the religious sister were wearing police clothes. After assaulting her, they took her truck, using the excuse that it was implicated in a drug trafficking case.
According to the statement, the attack on the elderly sister was “cold and calculated,” perpetrated by gangs related to organized crime who want to take over some Church-owned lands.
The bishops asked the authorities to “defend the people, institutions and groups that work for the common good” from the individuals and groups that “search their own benefit, through violent acts and lacking any humanity and ethic.”
This “violent, inhuman and criminal act” against the religious sister is far from being the only case of violence against nuns in the last year.
Not 10 days ago, the United States was shocked to hear about the cold-blooded murder of two nuns in one of Mississippi’s poorest counties. Sister Paula Merrill, a nun with Kentucky-based Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, and Margaret Held, a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were killed in their home by Rodney Sanders, 46, a man who had been living in a small metal shed across from the religious women.
On Thursday 24th, a small community of the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa, who’ll be declared a saint by Pope Francis on Sunday, were attacked in Argentina. Beaten and tied by three men who took all the money they had in their home, roughly $3,30, their assailants remain unknown.
Earlier in the year, on March 4, four sisters from the same religious order were murdered in Yemen, together with 12 other people. These Missionaries of Charity were killed when Islamic fundamentalists entered the home for the disabled and elderly which the women operate in Aden.
The superior of the home survived by hiding. Father Tom Uzhunnalil, an Indian Salesian priest who had been living in the home since Holy Family Parish in Aden was sacked and burned in September, is still missing.
Pope Francis referred to them as “martyrs of indifference,” saying that these “are the martyrs of today…they gave their blood for the Church, (yet) they are not in the papers, they are not news.”
According to official Vatican statistics, there are roughly 700,000 professed Catholic sisters in the world, with the most recent growth coming in parts of the developing world such as Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where both chronic lawlessness and also, in some instances, anti-Christian persecution are often part of the social landscape.
As a result, many experts on religious life believe the perils faced by members of religious orders, and probably especially women, are destined to increase.