Iraqi Christians still can't go home

  • March 19, 2010
{mosimage}Elections in Iraq that some claim have opened the way for a more peaceful and democratic state haven’t overcome the divisions or the sectarian violence that is generating hundreds of thousands of refugees, said an Iraqi Dominican Sister.

Sr. Aman Miriam of Mosul, Iraq — currently staying with the Adrian Dominican community in Michigan — told The Catholic Register days after 62 per cent of eligible Iraqis voted in national elections March 7 that the thousands of Iraqi Christians living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria can’t return home and fear terrorist attacks and kidnapping if they do return.

“Every day there is kidnapping. Every day there is violence. Every day there is bombing,” said Miriam. “People are used to these events. They’re used to hearing these stories. Sometimes, when they don’t hear it for a day or two days or a week, they think that it is peace, that the situation is getting better, that nothing is happening. But that’s not the truth.”

Dozens of parishes across Canada have stepped up to sponsor Iraqi refugees and Citizenship and Immigration Canada has promised to bring 2,500 Iraqi refugees to Canada this year. About 15 per cent of the more than one million Iraqi refugees in the Middle East are Christians.

The elections didn’t come anywhere close to resolving the Iraqi refugee crisis, which has generated the largest refugee population in the world, said Miriam.

“The violence is still there, and the stress is still there for families,” she said.

While many Christians remain in Iraq because they can’t afford to leave the country for Syria, Jordan or Lebanon — countries where they can’t legally work — the Dominican Sisters in Mosul are staying no matter what, said Miriam.

“We have very brave sisters who are staying there,” she said. “For us, leaving the country, I believe that won’t happen because people are looking to us. We are hope for them.”

The Mosul sisters even have two postulants hoping to become novices this summer.

The Dominican convent in Mosul has endured both direct hits and other attacks in its neighbourhood that have damaged their building so many times the sisters stopped replacing windows.

“The sisters started to put very thick nylon or cotton (over the windows),” explained Miriam. “In January our convent was bombed really badly, and another Chaldean church was bombed the same day — like a couple of minutes in between.”

The sisters want to maintain their presence in part to ensure that their convent doesn’t become another abandoned building used by terrorists or gangsters as a base of operations, according to Miriam. But mostly they stay on to preach the Gospel in the spirit of St. Dominic.

“Just staying there and being with the people, this is living the Gospel really,” she said. “We’re not just talking about it, we are living the Gospel.”

Please see: Toronto Chaldeans pray for homeland


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