Despite how unsavory and barbaric Islamic groups and persons around the world have been acting—whether Nigeria’s Boko Haram, Mesopotamia’s Islamic State, Somalia’s Shabaab—perhaps few things are as disgusting and cowardly as the Muslim rape of nuns: defenseless Christian women who sacrifice much of their lives to help sick and needy Muslims.
The latest such attack comes from Bangladesh, which is over 90% Muslim in population. In early July, dozens of men armed with machetes, knives and iron rods attacked the convent of PIME (Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions nuns in Boldipuku), a village mission in north Bangladesh.
In the words of Bishop Sebastian Tudu “the nuns were beaten and molested, ending when police arrived.”
Catholic Online has the complete story:
[S]ome 60 men attempted to loot the building and rape the nuns… The attackers first tied the hands and legs of the mission’s two night watchmen and gagged them in the early morning hours. They then broke down the door of the room where the assistant pastor Father Anselmo Marandy was sleeping. They then raided the convent located in the mission campus…. Three PIME nuns suffered attempted rape and were sent to their provincial house in Dhaka, the national capital where they are trying to overcome the shock and mental suffering. “It’s very sad that the sisters cannot continue to work for the people, but our sisters are no longer safe,” Rosaline Costa, a Catholic human rights activist lamented. Local Christians are currently living in fear since the attack. Christians form only 0.8 percent of Dinajpur district’s three million people.
Although some of those quoted in the Catholic Online report say that this attack is “unprecedented,” the fact is, raped nuns is a phenomenon that goes back centuries. According to Muslim historian Taqi al-Din al-Maqrizi (1364-1442), during his raids on then Christian-majority Egypt, Caliph Marwan II (r.744–50) “made captive a number of women from among the nuns of several convents. And he tried to seduce one of them.”
The account describes how the enslaved nun tricked him into killing her, by claiming she had a magic oil that make skin impenetrable: “She then took some oil and anointed herself with it; then stretched out her neck, which he smote with the sword, and made her head fly. He then understood that she preferred death to defilement.”
Writing in the 10th century, the Coptic chronicler Severus ibn Muqaffa records that “the Arabs [i.e., Muslims] in the land of Egypt had ruined the country…. They burnt the fortresses and pillaged the provinces, and killed a multitude of the saintly monks who were in them [monasteries] and they violated a multitude of the virgin nuns and killed some of them with the sword.”
After the Islamic conquest of Constantinople in 1453, according to eyewitness accounts, “Monasteries and Convents were broken in. Their tenants were killed, nuns were raped, many, to avoid dishonor, killed themselves. Killing, raping, looting, burning, enslaving, went on and on according to tradition.”
Such is history—expunged as it is in the modern West—even as it repeats itself today. Thus, in August 2013, after torching a Franciscan school in Egypt, “Islamists,” in the words of the AP, “paraded three nuns on the streets like ‘prisoners of war’” and “Two other women working at the school were sexually harassed and abused as they fought their way through a mob.”
Indeed, the rise in attacks on Christian nuns throughout the Islamic world further demonstrates that they are no more inviolable than other “infidel” women:
•Somalia: In response to Pope Benedict’s historical quotes which, like so many other things so enraged the Islamic world, Muslims in Somalia shot Leonella Sgarbati—a 66-year-old nun who had devoted 30 years of her life working in Africa—in her back. Her last words before dying in hospital were: “I forgive; I forgive.”
•Pakistan: In September 2012, gunmen on motorbikes dressed in green (Islam’s color) opened fire on the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Cathedral in Hyderabad, murdering at least 28 people. Their immediate target was a nun, Mother Christina.
•Libya: In February 2013, after the fall of Col. Gaddafi, Islamic rebels threatened nuns into fleeing the nation. They had been there since 1921, focused primarily on helping the sick and needy.
•Palestinian Authority: Last year, nuns of the Greek-Orthodox monastery in Bethany sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urging him to respond to the escalation of attacks on the Christian house, including the throwing of stones, broken glass, theft and looting of the monastery property.
•Philippines: In an article discussing a Christmas Day church bombing in a Muslim-majority region, we learn that the jihadi group responsible “has been blamed for several bomb attacks on the Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo since the early 2000s and for kidnapping priests and nuns.”