Rome, Italy, October 3, 2017 / 03:11 (ACI Prensa).- Three years ago there were 73 nuns with the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena living in Kurdistan. Since the Islamic State captured the plain of Nineveh in 2014, a third of them have died.
Sister Silvia is one of the survivors. Surrounded by devastation, she said she prays for those who persecute her community and learns to forgive them.
“We pray for them every day as sisters. We pray for them, for those who bring peace, for our soldiers, for those who help people have a better life,” she told CNA.
“This prayer helps us to forgive – not to forget, because you can’t forget, but not to hate the other person. If we hate others, it means we are doing what the devil wants, not what Jesus wants.
Silvia lived with 35 of her sisters in a convent in Qaraqosh, the largest Christian city in Iraq.
“When we heard that ISIS had arrived, the first thing we felt was fear – fear of being taken prisoner by them, fear of violence, fear of death.”
The sisters – whose community has lived in the plains regions of Nineveh and Iraqi Kurdistan for 120 years – were forced to flee in August 2015.
During the occupation of the Nineveh plain by the Islamic State, around 100 places of worship were destroyed, mostly Christian churches.
Today, thanks to the support of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need, around 1,000 Christian families have returned home. Since 2014, the foundation has allocated $36.6 million for food and housing projects for displaced Christians in northern Iraq. The estimated cost of rebuilding Christian cities is $250 million.
Looking to the future, Silvia says, she hopes to continue the religious mission to which she has dedicated her life.
“My dream is to live in peace,” she said. “Both my own peace, within myself – because we are also at war with ourselves – and the peace that we experience physically. To live in tranquility, in love and to help people to know Jesus because he is love.
“I tell all Christians that if we are truly Christians, baptized in the name of Jesus, we must always trust that Jesus will be with them. Jesus is with us. Jesus never leaves us. Even if we turn away from him, he will wait for us to come back,” she stressed.
Gradually, Christians have started to return to the plain of Nineveh, but there is still much to do.
“We asked Aid to the Church in Need to help us rebuild our convent and get people back as soon as possible,” Sister Silvia said.
“About 30 sisters will return. We will give people hope, we will help educate them, because we have schools to educate their children, and we will continue our catechesis in churches and schools,” she said.
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.