PATNA, India, JUNE 22, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A few days after the Indian Catholic episcopate appealed to the authorities for protection against attacks on Church personnel, another convent came under siege in the state of Bihar.
Early Tuesday, 10 assailants armed with guns and other weapons attacked the Chetanalaya Center run the by Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Rajgir, a tourist township in the Nalanda district in central Bihar, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Patna, the state capital.
According to the women religious, the looters took valuables and about $560 in cash.
"I was sleeping on the terrace along with 11 handicapped girls, who had stayed back during vacation," said Sister Rose Plathottam, directress of Chetanalya. "At about 11 p.m. some 10 youths carrying guns and other weapons entered our convent ? after climbing a wall."
"Seeing nobody downstairs, they ransacked the convent in a bid to get hold of the keys to the rooms. Later they came up to the terrace, threatened me with a gun and dragged me to the ground floor," said the woman religious. Then they asked her for her mobile phone and cash, she added.
Frightened, Sister Rose, who was alone at the time of the attack, opened the room and allowed the youths to take her phone and the money. They then forced her to another end of the building and demanded more money.
Meanwhile, the other gunmen ransacked the entire center, including the dispensary and school. Others intimidated the girls, ages 5 to 14, covering their faces with blankets. The assailants then fled with their loot.
"It appears that the marauders knew the place. Otherwise they would not have managed to sneak inside so easily," provincial superior Sister Teresa Kotturan told SAR News, confirming that the police were notified the same day.
There seems to be "a pattern in all these recent attacks on convents in Bihar," she added. "Convents are vulnerable places where greedy gangs can get away with the money."
In fact, on June 9 two other convents in Bihar were attacked -- one of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Sokho, Diocese of Bhagalpur, and the other the convent of Notre Dame in the Diocese of Bettiah.
On June 12 the state of Rajasthan was the scene of an attack on the convent of the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Graces, in Bhiwadi. Nuns were injured and their belongings were looted.
These and other attacks were reported by the Indian episcopate on Saturday, which requested the central government and state governments to take quick action against the attackers.