GSR Today - On All Saints' Day, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena living in Irbil, Iraq, wrote a letter to their supporters across the world, to update them on the situation in Iraq.
"When we left everything in Qaraqosh, maybe we accumulated a lot of things in our houses that we didn't need. We left our Christian pictures in Qaraqosh, but since August 6, 2014, I have changed my views on things. I discovered people don't need things to be happy."
GSR Today - Late last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the atrocities being carried out by ISIS in Iraq and Syria are genocide. The news made headlines around the world, but for Dominican Sisters, the statement was particularly welcome because of close ties going back decades.
GSR Today - Nearly two years ago, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, fleeing the so-called Islamic State group, left their hometown of Mosul and relocated to Iraqi Kurdistan. GSR has been following the sisters, and last week Prioress Sr. Maria Hanna penned a 2015 year-end recap, which seems appropriate to highlight here.
As we approach the first anniversary of our displacement, we look back and recall the past 12 months. We undertake this recollection to call to mind what the Lord has done for us, and how he accompanied us throughout the night of Aug. 6, 2014, as we were displaced with his people. Now, as IDPs, and with the rest of our people, we do face everyday challenges. We wonder how long this will last. Our hearts are filled with sadness and overwhelming grief. We wait but we get nothing; we think but do not understand.
GSR Today - Three hundred and sixty-four days ago, in the deep dark of night, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena fled their home in Qaraqosh, Iraq. The sisters were some of the last Christians to leave this region.
Sr. Martha Ann Kirk, a sister of the Incarnate Word, has spent years on the road, researching pockets of tolerance in hostile parts of the Middle East. Her research has brought her to Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Palestine, as well as China and the halls of the United Nations. She is a professor of religious studies at the University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Texas, and a prolific author.
Speaking quietly and deliberately, Dominican Sr. Diana Momeka from Iraq urged a congressional committee hearing May 13 to help the displaced Christian refugees in Iraq to "go back home." "We want nothing more than to go back to our lives; we want nothing more than to go home," Momeka, a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena of Mosul, Iraq, told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. During the hearing: "Ancient Communities Under Attack: ISIS's War on Religious Minorities," Momeka was one of four women who spoke of the urgent need to not only help and protect religious minorities but also to preserve and save religious sites.
Numbers can be numbing. There are an estimated 16.7 million refugees in the world. As I think of their experience and of visiting with some of the internally displaced people of Iraq, I am reminded of one of the characteristics that St. Dominic made a part of Dominican life – that of itinerancy, traveling from place to place. For me as a Dominican, I choose it. I choose the stance in life that allows me to be sent, to be on the move as needed by the mission. Itinerancy is a necessary partner to mission. While it is natural to “settle in,” I know that too much settling in, physically or mentally, can block the reign of God from being realized.
In 1998 Fr. Timothy Radcliffe was Master of the Dominican Order and the people of Iraq were experiencing the burden of U.S. sanctions. Radcliffe, informing us we had “family” in Iraq, asked how we might be sister and brother to our family in the Middle East. It had never dawned on me that there were Dominicans in Iraq. We have discovered and are discovering that relationships call us out of ourselves and into the lives of one another on a profoundly personal and enriching basis. Our sisterhood connects us and provides the courage to strengthen the bonds of friendship and love that will last our lifetimes.
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