Indian bishop to be questioned for alleged rape of nun

Catholic nuns hold placards demanding the arrest of a bishop who one nun has accused of rape, during a public protest in Kochi, Kerala, India, on Sept. 12, 2018. (AP Photo)
Updated 13 September 2018
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Indian bishop to be questioned for alleged rape of nun

  • The nun first accused Mullackal in late June of raping her 13 times between 2014 and 2016
  • Bishop Franco Mullackal has called the whole scandal a conspiracy by those against the Church

NEW DELHI: Indian police on Wednesday summoned for questioning a bishop accused by a nun of raping her multiple times, following days of protests by other nuns and supporters.
Bishop Franco Mullackal, who has rejected the accusations, has been called for questioning in the southern state of Kerala on September 19, the Press Trust of India reported.
The nun first accused Mullackal in late June of raping her 13 times between 2014 and 2016, but police until now have stopped short of formally questioning him.
But pressure has been building on the authorities to investigate the claims.
Over recent days five nuns — in a rare show of dissent within the Indian Church — and dozens of supporters have been protesting in Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram.
With media interest growing as well, the alleged victim has also approached the Vatican representative in India to press her case.
Her letter, leaked to Indian media, said Mullackal was “using political and money power to bury the case.”
Mullackal has called the whole scandal a conspiracy by those against the Church, and has won backing from his congregation at the Missionaries of Jesus Church.
Kerala’s High Court will be hearing the matter on Thursday, although the bishop was not expected to attend.
A local politician, P C George, has meanwhile made waves by calling the nun “a prostitute.”
“Twelve times she enjoyed it and the thirteenth time it is rape? Why didn’t she complain the first time?” media reports quoted him as saying.
Kerala is home to India’s largest Christian population and one of the oldest in the world.
In July, two priests were arrested for allegedly raping and blackmailing a woman for over 20 years in the state.
Sexual abuse by clergymen and the failure of senior Church officials to take action has been one of the biggest scandals facing the Catholic Church in recent years.
Pope Francis issued a letter on sexual abuse to the Catholics around the world in August, expressing the Church’s “shame and repentance.”
Christians — overwhelmingly Catholic — are the third-largest religious group in India. Around 80 percent of the country’s 1.25 billion population is Hindu, followed by a sizable Muslim minority.


UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

Updated 44 min 46 sec ago
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UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

  • Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya
  • They have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts

YANGON: The UN has warned it will pare back aid to thousands of Rohingya Muslims left destitute as Myanmar’s government closes camps in Rakhine state, over fears its continued support “risks entrenching segregation.”
Aid agencies are facing an increasingly sharp dilemma in the region as they balance relief for desperate communities with leverage over the government.
The majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya were driven into Bangladesh by a 2017 army crackdown, but around 400,000 remain inside conflict-battered Rakhine.
Those include nearly 130,000 held since 2012 in squalid camps, currently supported by UN agencies and humanitarian groups.
As part of its strategy to address the crisis, Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya.
But they have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts. Instead, they are being settled in new accommodation close to the former camps.
That has sparked fears aid agencies are effectively being used to prop-up a policy that fails to address the fundamental needs of the Rohingya, including housing, work, food and security.
The camp closure plan “risks entrenching segregation,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Knut Ostby wrote to the government in a leaked letter, dated 6 June and seen by AFP.
The letter, also written on behalf of aid groups, warned support “beyond life-saving assistance” at the closed sites would in future be linked to “tangible” progress made on “the fundamental issue of freedom of movement.”
“Life-saving” support includes food, health and water, but site planning, shelter construction and education facilities could be phased out, aid agency sources told AFP.
The UN has faced criticism for a slow response to violence against the Rohingya, which escalated after 2012 riots between Muslim Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
A UN report released Monday admitted “systemic failures” in its handling of the build-up to the Rohingya crisis.
Limited access to Rakhine’s camps makes independent reporting on conditions difficult.
But AFP has reviewed recent interviews conducted in five camps by an NGO requesting anonymity to protect its work.
“If I build a house, it can be seized arbitrarily,” one Rohingya man said.
“I have no right to the land and I can also be arrested at any time.”
An aid worker called the remaining 23 sites in Rakhine little more than “concentration camps.”
On condition of anonymity, she spoke of the “complicity” humanitarian staff feel for perpetuating the segregation.
Amnesty International has described Rakhine as an “apartheid state.”
All aid must be “heavily conditioned,” researcher Laura Haigh said, warning donors that building infrastructure could make them complicit in crimes against humanity.
The government defended the camp closures, telling AFP it would continue working with the UN and NGOs on the issue.
Any former camp resident holding a National Verification Card (NVC) will be able to “move freely within their township” and access “education, health facilities and livelihood activities,” the social welfare ministry said.
Most Rohingya refuse to apply for the card believing they should already be treated as full citizens.
Those interviewed said the few to have caved had no more rights than anyone else.
They were also forced to designate themselves as “Bengali,” a term implying they are from Bangladesh.
“They are just trying to dominate us and make us illegal through different ways,” one Rohingya man said.