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Order to deport nun was a 'mistake'

Government withdraws expulsion order to allow British sister to stay

Philip Mathew, Bangalore

July 27, 2011

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Indian authorities have withdrawn an expulsion order against a British nun and allowed her to stay indefinitely just hours after she was handed a last-minute reprieve with a one-month visa extension. Two days ago, the residents of the Sumanahalli (goodwill village) Society center in Bangalore bade Sister Jacqueline Jean McEwan a tearful farewell after the federal home ministry ordered the Montfort Missionaries nun to leave India within 24 hours. She was later given an extra month by the ministry which backtracked even further yesterday when federal Home Minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, instructed officials to allow the nun to stay in India for as long as she wants. The minister said the expulsion order was “a mistake.” Sister McEwan – a trained nurse -- arrived in India in 1982 as a medical volunteer. Since then, she has worked among leprosy patients at the Sumanahalli center. “She is a kind person with a golden heart,” said Raman, who Sister McEwan took from the streets 20 years ago. “I am so glad the government has allowed her to stay with us,” the 76-year-old former Hansenite said. Mohammad Pasha, 65, another resident, said he was deeply saddened after hearing about Sister McEwan’s deportation order. He said he is grateful to the nun for finding him a home and treating him. Sister McEwan, who was visiting leprosy patients in another district today, thanked the government for allowing her to stay in India. “I can continue nursing my patients and help them lead a dignified life,” she said. Claretian Father George Kannanthanam, Sumanahalli’s director, also expressed his happiness at the latest developments. “Dressing a leprosy patient’s wounds is a challenging job and Sister [McEwan] did it with great love, care and commitment. She can never be replaced,” the priest said. Adisaya Nathan, a Sumanahalli staff member, said the British nun had trained him and others in how to dress leprosy patients’ wounds. He said the nun also helped look after patients’ children. “You will never find any children of leprosy patients begging in the streets or out of school,’’ he added.

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