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Indian Christians rally to show 'solidarity' with raped elderly nun

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“Thousands of Christians rallied in Kolkata on Monday in a show of outrage over the recent gang-rape of an elderly nun.Some 4,000 Christians, including nuns and priests clutching lit candles, sang hymns and said prayers as they gathered in a public park.

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Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of the Archdiocese of Calcutta, the main organizer of the rally, called it a “solidarity rally, not a protest rally”. He said he wanted to show that Christians in Kolkata stood united at a moment of “pain and sorrow”.“We definitely protest the crime, and demand the arrest of the culprits at the earliest,” he told ucanews.com. “Such a crime should not take place at any place, at any time.”Florence Gonsalves, a woman who attended the rally, said they could only pray “for peace and that people grow to respect each other as human beings”. The attack on the nun, 71, occurred last Friday after robbers broke into her convent in the town of Ranaghat, some 80 kilometers from Kolkata.Police said Monday that 10 men have been detained for questioning but no arrests have been made, even though the faces of four of the robbers were captured on CCTV footage.

Savarimuthu Sankar, spokesman of Delhi archdiocese, urged a swift response from authorities but bemoaned the lack of arrests.

“There cannot be any result unless the local police show sincerity,” he said.

Fr Sankar said the nun’s rape should not be dismissed as an isolated incident.

“We should know that there is already a vicious atmosphere against Christians in the country, which encourages criminals to attack Christians,” he said.

The assault on the nun is the latest in a string of high-profile rapes in India and comes after a spate of attacks on churches that prompted Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi to promise a crackdown on religious violence.Priests and other Christian leaders have blamed those attacks on religious hardliners, who are said to have become emboldened since Modi swept to power at general elections last May.Modi had been heavily criticized for not speaking out earlier against religious violence and has also faced flak for remaining silent about a spate of mass “re-conversions” of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.The Prime Minister’s Office has asked for an “immediate report on facts and actions taken” regarding the rape and another attack on a church in Hisar in the northern state of Haryana, according to a spokesman for the prime minister.

The junior federal minister for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju, also told ucanews.com on Tuesday that the government has asked for a detailed report from the West Bengal state government on the attack on the convent school.”We have asked the West Bengal government to provide details of the existing security arrangements at convents and other Christian educational and social institutes in the state,” he said.”

Additional reporting by AFP