India's Sister Prema condemns trafficking, says nuns not involved



NEW DELHI (CNS) — Facing child
trafficking allegations at one of its homes for unmarried mothers in India, the
Missionaries of Charity said the order condemns the actions of individuals
involved and stressed that these are unrelated to the order.

A baby born in Nirmal Hriday
(Tender Heart) home in the eastern Indian city of Ranchi was not handed over to
state adoption authorities after the mother had declared her intention to do
so, Sister Mary Prema Pierick, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity,
said in a July 17 statement from Kolkata.

“We are fully cooperating
with the investigations and are open to any free, fair and just inquiry,”
Sister Prema said, noting that “false news” “and “baseless
innuendos” are being spread.

“While we place our full
trust in the judicial process that is underway, we wish to express regret and
sorrow for what happened,” she said.

The order condemns “in
unequivocal terms” the individual actions “which have nothing to do
with the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity,” she said.

Police maintained that Jharkhand
state’s Child Welfare Committee came to suspect the home was involved in the
illegal trading of children after a couple complained they were not given a
child, despite paying 120,000 rupees (US$1,850) as an adoption fee.

Sister Concelia, whose duties as
sister in charge of the home in Jharkhand state included accompanying mothers
and babies to the welfare committee, which handles adoptions, was assisted by
Anima Indwar, Sister Prema said.

Indwar had been employed by the
home, which is part of the mission for children and unwed mothers of the order
founded by St. Teresa of Kolkata in 1950, since 2012 and had come “to
enjoy the trust of the sisters,” she said.

Sister Prema’s statement said
Karishma Toppo, who had been in the home for about six weeks before her baby
was born May 1, had declared in the home’s register her intention to “surrender
her child” to the welfare committee.

While Indwar, Toppo and her
guardian took the baby from the home to do this, neither the home nor the
sisters “had any way to ascertain whether the child was actually
surrendered” to the welfare services, she said.

When she admitted to the welfare
committee early July that the baby had not been given to them, Indwar was
handed over to police, Sister Prema said.

Sister Concelia was arrested and
her superior, Sister Marie Deanne, was questioned and held in police custody
overnight, she said.

The following day, the home’s 11
mothers, a baby and a guardian were removed from the home by the welfare
services, Sister Prema said.

The women “were subjected
to utmost humiliation and public embarrassment by the officials as they were
carried in full view of the media,” she said.

Another Missionaries of Charity
home in Hinoo was raided by police soon afterward, with its 22 children, including
a one-month-old baby, “carried away” by authorities, Sister Prema

“It is distressing that”
the welfare committee “meted out such treatment to a home which,”
weeks before, officials had “described as having an ‘excellent environment
for the care of children,'” she said.

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