“We are expecting a lot of backlash from the church. But it cannot penalise us for fighting for justice,” the nun said.

Will fight legally if church ostracises us Protesting nun Sr Josephine tells TNMProtesting nuns with Sr. Josephine in the centre
news Protest Thursday, September 20, 2018 - 09:10

What do you do when the institution that is supposed to protect you decides to malign, threaten and ostracise you for demanding justice? You fight back. Even if the said institution is the all-powerful Christian church. That is what the five nuns who’ve asked for the arrest of rape accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal firmly believe in. And despite the several stumbling blocks that lie ahead in their journey for justice, they will not back down without a fight.

“We are expecting a lot of backlash from the church. But it cannot penalise us for fighting for justice. If the church decides to punish and ostracise us for fighting against the injustice within the clergy, we will fight back and legally too, if need be,” Sister Josephine, one of the five protesting nuns of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation, told TNM.

The five sisters are not alone in their protest, as they are backed by hundreds of laity from different districts of Kerala. They even have the silent support and solidarity of other nuns in their congregation, who have undergone similar experiences.

“There are scores of nuns who have silently extended their support, only because they are too scared to open up for fear of backlash. Some are scared, some don’t want to be embroiled in a controversy, and the church itself has forced them to keep mum,” Sr Josephine said.

While the case has come out after four years, the nuns say that before the fight was out in the open, a silent struggle was being led within the institution to seek justice. But non-compliance and threats by the authorities forced the sisters to take to the streets.

“Legal redressal was the last resort after we exhausted all possible ways to settle the issue within the congregation. We spoke to the Kuruvilangad church vicar and requested him to remove us from the Diocese of Jalandhar. He, in turn, asked us to speak with the Bishop of Pala, who sent us to Archbishop Alachery. We even wrote letters to the Vatican Nuncio in India, but received no response from them. In the meantime, the survivor was being abused verbally and psychologically by the Bishop,” Josephine added.

On June 21, an FIR was registered at the Kuruvilangad police station against Bishop Franco. However, 85 days on, the police have made no arrests on the case. Accusations of vote-bank politics have been hurled at the ruling party for their apparent laxity in handling the case.

“We were offered land and money to withdraw the case and hush up by the church. But no means to right the wrong that had taken place,” the sister added.

Following 12 days of protests and hunger strike, the rape-accused Bishop was finally summoned for interrogation at the SP office in Tripunithara on Wednesday. However, protesters at the protest venue say that justice delayed is justice denied, and an arrest has to be made immediately.

Even with rallying cries for immediate arrest resounding through the protest venue, the sisters believe that the delay is inevitable.

“We expect the arrest to take place only after the hearing on the Bishop’s bail plea application, which is set to take place on September 25. As of now, the protest will continue until the accused is arrested. We will decide our next course of action after that. If the arrest is not made, then we will continue protests till it is,” she added.

But where the church and the state fail, there is the law to go to. And the nuns are firm in their belief that the despite all the delay, the court will rule for the survivor, and justice will prevail.

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