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Indonesian nun and human rights champion dies at 80

Sister Eusthocia Monika Nata dedicated her life to defending women and children against violence and sexual abuse
Sister Eusthocia Monika Nata gives a speech while leading a two-day protest on Nov. 2-3 at Sikka district police station. (Photo supplied by Father Otto Gusti Madung)

An Indonesian nun who for decades dedicated her life to defending women and children against violence and sexual abuse has died aged 80.

Servants of the Holy Spirit Sister Eusthocia Monika Nata died on Nov. 8 of a suspected heart attack in Maumere on the Catholic-majority island of Flores in East Nusa Tenggara province, the Humanitarian Volunteer Team-Flores said. 

Sister Eusthocia also worked for the group founded in 1997 and led its women's division until the end of her life.

The sister was known for her courage and tenacity in defending the rights of female victims of violence, generally related to domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking.

As well as helping to bring perpetrators to justice, she also managed a shelter for recovering victims.

Her last public appearance was leading a two-day protest on Nov. 2-3 outside Sikka district police station along with other nuns, priests and lay activists over police handling of a case involving 17 underage girls who were allegedly treated as sex slaves in four nightclubs in Maumere before being rescued in June.

Divine Word Father Otto Gusti Madung, a human rights activist and lecturer at Ledalero Catholic School of Philosophy, said that apart from being tenacious and determined, Sister Eusthocia showed a great deal of patience when fighting for victims.

"It’s a struggle to uphold the rights of victims as legal institutions often side with the perpetrators and forget the victims," said the priest.

The nun always believed that "in time the truth will be revealed and justice for victims would be realized,” he said.

“This belief may have encouraged Sister Eusthocia to keep fighting, even when she was old and her strength was failing,” he told UCA News.

Angelo Wake Kako, a former student activist and now a member of the Regional Representative Council, said the nun was a “teacher for humanitarian activists.”

He said he learned a lot from her when he was chairman of the Maumere branch of the Indonesian Catholic Student Association and helped the nun defend a maid who was allegedly raped and impregnated by a local official.

"There were many lessons from her about the meaning of persistence in a struggle which carried risks," he told UCA News.

Kasmiati Zivanna, a Muslim woman that Sister Eusthocia once helped, said the nun "never discriminated against anyone" and that the news of her death had shocked her.

“She held us in her arms at a time when we had fallen and were fragile. She gave us a new spirit to rise," she said.

Many Catholics in Flores, including local officials, offered messages of condolences and tribute to the nun on social media.


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