Finger points to mining firms as assaulted nun waits two weeks for surgery

Finger points to mining firms as assaulted nun waits two weeks for surgery
Irish missionary Sister Kathleen has endured two weeks of pain since the vicious attack

An Irish nun who was savagely attacked at her convent in Zamboanga del Sur is still awaiting urgent surgery after a gruelling overland journey to Manila.

As we previously reported (here) Columban Sister Kathleen Melia was closing the windows at the San Jose Parish Church on March 1 when a masked man struck, punching her to the ground.


In shocking new details that have emerged since the attack, the unidentified attacker then gagged the 70-year-old before repeatedly punching her in the face and chest.

The attacker then fled the scene leaving Sr Kathleen, who is originally from Mohill, County Leitrim, lying unconscious and gagged.

When she came to she raised the alarm and was treated locally before enduring a two-hour van journey to the nearest suitable hospital where x-rays revealed she had a broken leg.


An immediate complication arose as a result of the nun’s B Negative blood type. Less than one per cent of the Filipino population share this blood type and the hospital had no supplies available.

A frantic search eventually located sufficient supplies for surgery to take place but the complexity of the procedure meant Sr Kathleen had to be transferred to Manila for a follow-up operation.

As no flights out of Zamboanga Airport were able to accommodate her stretcher, she had to wait three days for a boat and then set off — accompanied by a nurse and a fellow missionary — on a two-and-a-half day journey across rough seas to Manila. Upon arrival, another desperate search for blood donors began.

Thankfully, sufficient blood has now been located and the surgery is expected to go ahead tomorrow.

Police investigations are continuing, but no arrests have been made.

However, following an investigation by The Irish Times, sources close to the missionary community in the region have linked the attack to interests in the mining industry.

Sr Kathleen, who has worked in the region for more than 30 years, has for long assisted the Subaanen tribal people in their fight against companies engaged in large-scale mining, which the tribes fear will destroy their way of life.

She has worked at translating documents and preparing legal papers as well as developing feeding, agricultural and education programmes for the community, which has been threatened by environmental damage caused by mining.

“We don’t know who was behind the attack but the ones that stand to gain most from it are people connected with mining industry,” one source familiar with the region told The Irish Times. “We don’t know who else would do such a thing.”