The treasure of faith: the Dominican Sisters and Christian refugees in Kurdistan


Refugees among refugees, the Dominican Sisters are an example to us all. In Erbil, where they live now, these sisters seek to dry the tears of those who, like them, have lost everything but faith. This is the only treasure that jihadists could not steal. Everything else was left behind.

The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena have lived in Erbil since the late afternoon of 6 August 2014. They are only part of the large group of refugees coming from the city of Qaraqosh. The sisters do not want to remember those moments of fear when they had to flee, along with thousands of people, from “Islamic State”. However they cannot forget the tragedy.

When the fleeing Christians arrived in Erbil, panic was present in all the faces. Men, women and children were all like sheep without a shepherd. Sister Diana Momeka can never forget the crying children, the parents’ distress, the impotence of all before the maelstrom of events. “All those people left their homes behind,” she recalls.” Hours before, they all had houses, cars, jobs, a stable life. Then came the jihadists and they fled. Now they were here, lost, with nothing, and homeless.”

From the first moment the  Sisters considered it as their primary mission to provide assistance to hundreds of children forced to flee with their parents from the terror of the jihadists. However, despite the apparent normality of their life these days, everyone there knows that the situation is still so fragile. Here, in Erbil in  Iraqi Kurdistan, everyone’s life is suspended. In fact, everyone wants to leave, considering Erbil as just a crossing point between the stolen past and a future that has yet to be built.

The sisters decided to stay in Erbil to help the refugees. Here they seek to dry the tears of those who, like them, were forced to flee. All around, in the refugee camp, Christians live in deprivation. What they had was left behind in Qaraqosh. They lost except  their faith in Jesus. In Erbil, faith is the only treasure that the jihadists could not steal. Everything else is gone.

Expelled from Qaraqosh, the  Sisters feel that their place is now in Erbil. Far away, in a past that seems already distant, the convent where they lived, where they prayed, where they were happy is now in ruins. Their future now, as always, is in the hands of God.  These are difficult times. “I ask your prayers “says Sister Hanna  “that God will enlighten us.”

ACN Malta