Iraqi Dominican details life in war-torn country
“We can only have faith and hope. I pray and hope that things get better, or else I won’t be able to continue my life and my vocation.”
By Beth Griffin
06/09/2008 Iraq (CNS) — An Iraqi Dominican nun June 5 described life in her war-torn country as one of suffering, violence and fear of kidnappings and attacks on civilians.
Nonetheless, she said, “We can only have faith and hope. I pray and hope that things get better, or else I won’t be able to continue my life and my vocation.”
Sister Diana, a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena , spoke at a briefing at the New York headquarters of the pontifical agency Catholic Near East Welfare Association. She did not use her surname for fear of reprisals against family members in Iraq . Sister Diana’s brother and six cousins have been killed there since the war began in 2003.
“People thought (the war) would change Iraq , but it didn’t turn out the way they thought,” she said. “We thought it would be different. They promised us there would be freedom.”
The violence in Iraq is perpetrated by different groups, she said, including terrorists, foreigners and opportunistic criminals. Sister Diana said U.S. soldiers “shoot without knowing who’s innocent.” She said her eye doctor was fatally shot by a U.S. soldier as he left his office one evening.
Christians have historically been a tiny minority in Iraq , but their numbers have shrunk dramatically, to about 3 percent of the population, since 2003. Most Iraqi Christians are Catholics and many of the estimated 350,000 Catholics still in Iraq have sought refuge in the northern province of Kurdistan .
Sister Diana said churches in the northern villages are packed, but that “it is hard for Christians in the cities to practice their faith as they used to do before.”
She said formerly crowded city churches now see 20 to 30 people at a service. Christians were “given a choice of paying a ransom to practice their religion, converting to Islam or leaving their house and all their belongings,” she added.