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Nun tells about life today in Iraq

Religious freedom declined after tyrant was removed

ICC Note

“They [the Islamic extremists] say, ‘You have three choices. You can get killed, convert to Islam, or leave without anything,'”

By Dolores Fox Ciardelli

03/22/2009 Iraq (Danville Weekly)-Sister Diana Momeka doesn’t criticize the U.S. invasion of Iraq . She just states the facts about life before the Americans entered her homeland to depose Saddam Hussein in 2003 and what life is like now.

“Americans see stories of towns returning to normal, markets opening and people shopping for their daily groceries but the sense of everyday angst, uncertainty and fear are not seen in the stories,” she told the Catholics@Work breakfast group recently at Crow Canyon Country Club.

Iraqi Christians have special challenges, she pointed out. Before 2003, the country had 1.2 million Christians; now it has 400,000, due to persecution from Islamic terrorists.

Kidnapping also became prevalent. One of her brothers, a mechanic, was sitting in front of his shop and three men came and shot him with 30 bullets.

“A neighbor said they shot him because he was a Christian. The men had tried to convert him to Islam,” she said. “He left four teenagers and a wife, 39. The oldest was 15, and they started to work.”

Sister Diana has been living in the United States for three years and relishes each day free from fear.

She told stories of a priest being kidnapped, a Christian woman raped in front of her husband and him being set free to tell the tale. She told about Islamic terrorists making Christians leave their homes.

“They say, ‘You have three choices. You can get killed, convert to Islam, or leave without anything,'” she said. “The people close to me left with nothing.”

They sought refuge in the few safe Christian cities where the residents were overwhelmed to welcome them into their homes and try to help them find work. “They slept on the floor, in the churches.”

“Seven churches were bombed in 2004, 2005 while people were worshipping,” she said, pausing to collect herself before she could continue. Her convent was also bombed.

“Despite that, churches are packed with people,” she said. “We see people filled with faith and hope. We believe peace will come. Most homilies are about hope.”

She said she grew up side by side with Muslims and never experienced persecution and fear.

“These extremists are not the people we lived with and shared our lives with,” she said. “The persecution of the Christians is the result of lawlessness.”

Sister Diana lives in Michigan and teaches at a literacy center. She also hopes to teach when she returns to Iraq .

She said before she came to the United States she was angry because she thought Americans didn’t care about what was happening in Iraq .

“Now I see that people do care, and they want to end the war,” she said. “This is my second home now.”

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