KOLKATA (C.M. Paul) – People of all faiths along with their religious leaders gathered for an inter-faith prayer to condemn the brutal murder of Sr Valsa John and pay homage to her self-sacrifice on Monday, 21st November. The gathering called under the CBCI-CRI inter-faith forum was held at Allen Park on Mother Teresa Sarani (Park Street) and Camac Street crossing, near Blessed Mother Teresa’s bust from 5.00 PM to 6.30 PM.
Representatives of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, as well as Christian community participated in the prayer gathering.
The community representatives lit a lamp in front of a large picture of Sister Valsa and people lit their candles from it as mark of solidarity and homage.
Besides reading brief portions of the sacred scriptures and singing bhajans, the religious leaders prayed for justice and peace to reign in all situations where the poor are oppressed and the social activists are crushed or silenced.
Coadjutor archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta who led the prayer meeting offered prayers for the slain Sister Valsa John as well as for all other social activists who fell victim to mindless violence.
He said, “the brutal murder of Sr Valsa John who served the poor Santals for over a decade is highly condemnable.” He insisted, “life is sacred and no one has the right to take it.”
Earlier in his homily at the annual Eucharistic procession held on Sunday 20th November, archbishop D’Souza called on thousands of faithful gathered at St Xavier’s College grounds Kolkata to emulate the life of Mother Teresa and Sr Valsa John who gave their lives for the poorest of the poor.
Sister Valsa John, a Catholic nun of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary was murdered near Pakur in the State of Jharkhand on 15 November and was laid to rest at St. Paul’s Church, Dudhani on Thursday (17 Nov) after a solemn Requiem Mass. Over 50 priests, 200 nuns and thousands of people participated at the funeral services. The family members of the deceased, including her eldest brother Baby Malamel and two of her nephews, from Kochi were among those who attended the funeral.
Hailing from Ernakulam district (Kerala), Sr. Valsa, 52, was reportedly dragged out of her rented house in Pachaura, 60 km from the district headquarters around 10.45 pm and was attacked with weapons by a gang of 45 tribals including Maoists.
Founder of an NGO, Rajmahal Pahar Bachao Andolan, Sr. Valsa is said to have been living at a rented house in Pachaura village where she began the forest conservation movement. The initiative had not only brought her to public glare, but also had caused discomfort to the stone mine and timber mafia.
Seven persons connected with Sr Valsa John’s murder were arrested on 20 November.
Pachaura saw four more murders and several hit-and-run cases. One of the victims was the son of the tribal leader of the RPBA led by the nun. This was followed by the murder of another activist of the movement. His wife and son were later found dead hit by a 60 ton dumper truck.