by Anto Akkara
UDAINAGAR, India (CNS) – The man who served a prison term for the 1995 murder of a Franciscan Clarist nun said that the forgiveness shown to him by the slain nun’s family has given him “new life.”
Samandhar Singh said that he experienced a “rebirth” during a 2002 visit by Sister Selmy, the younger sister of slain Sister Rani Maria Vattalil, while he was in prison.
Sister Selmy, also a member of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, offered words of forgiveness and tied a rakhi, or sacred thread, on his hand signifying that she accepted Singh as her brother, he recalled in his native Semlia village, near Indore in central Madhya Pradesh state.
Rakhi is a Hindu festival that celebrates love and duty between brothers and sisters. It includes a ritual whereby sisters tie a sacred thread on a brother’s wrist symbolizing the protective relationship between men and women, related or unrelated.
“It gave me a new life,” recalled the 46-year-old Singh with beaming eyes sitting at his farm. Singh said that even his wife deserted him after his conviction.
Police said Singh stabbed Sister Rani Maria 54 times in front of more than 50 bus passengers in a jungle area near Udainagar allegedly at the behest of money lenders affected by the nun’s social work among village women who were organizing self-help groups.
He was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to life in prison.
“I had visited him in the jail on Aug. 22, the day of Rakhi and the feast of Queen Mary,” Sister Selmy said, explaining that she had decided to forgive Singh soon after her sister’s death.