venerdì, ottobre 16, 2015


Iraqi nun who fled monastery now helping refugees

Sister Hayat, 30, lived a sheltered, spiritual life in a Dominican monastery near Mosul, northern Iraq. She took care of the children in an orphanage and taught anthropology at the local university. In the summer of 2014, IS fought their way into Mosul and the nuns were forced to flee.
“When we realised that running was our only option, all the nuns packed a bag. We met in the church and prayed, before kissing the floor one last time and closing the door of the monastery behind us,” she told Open Doors International during a recent visit.

She expected to be able to return soon, but the military strength of IS grew stronger and stronger. Most of the tens of thousands of Christians that fled the Mosul area in 2014 are still stuck in refugee camps in the area. Their homes are now occupied by IS fighters or were robbed by their former neighbours.

IS also confiscated the monastery that Sister Hayat had called home for more than 10 years.

“Sister Maria, the abbess of our monastery, was called on her cellphone by an IS commander a few days after we left. ‘Just to let you know, I’m sitting in your chair now and am running things here,’ he said, obviously trying to taunt her. He asked her where we kept our weapons since he was convinced such a strategic building would have an armoury. Sister Maria guided him to the library, where she knew the Bible was. ‘There are no weapons here, just books,’ she said. The man shouted through the phone. ‘The Bible is the only weapon we use. I encourage you to start reading it,’ she said.”

Sister Hayat looks worn-out; the fatigue of living the life of a refugee has shaped her face. Tears flow freely when she recalls how IS ousted her from the monastery where she had dedicated her life to God 14 years earlier.

Now she is helping in a refugee centre in Erbil, where she spent five months caring for elderly nuns.
“There was no place for me to sleep, but in these eventful days nobody noticed that,” she said. “So I used the laundry room to sleep on the floor. My bag was my pillow and I made a bed of laundry every night. The nuns never knew and I didn’t want them to know I was staying in such a bad condition because I came to serve. That was my way to express my solidarity with all the people on the run.”
She also started a prayer meeting among the youth in the camp.

“The needs of the refugees were so huge that we felt the need to begin praying in an organised way,” she said. “It started as a small seed with just a few youth gathered in the garden of a refugee centre. They lit candles and prayed silently or out loud. Many prayed things like ‘God, have mercy upon us!’ or ‘God, please let us go back to our homes!’

“People pray for each other’s needs. Whole families show up asking for prayer and pray for others in return.”

Sister Hayat says Christians in Iraq are “confused, in shock, and feel unsafe. They are without identity and feel completely lost in their own country. They’re asking God what He wants them to do. Should they migrate? Or should they stand firmly in this country, accepting what God is doing here? Pray that God opens doors for them and shows them which one to take.”

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