Handwritten account of massacre of missionaries
At about this time last year, I wrote about Pope Francis’ statement on “complicit silence” and how human beings, particularly Christians, were butchered by a terrorist group whose members were adherents of Islam. He was referring to the killing by al-Shabab Islamists of more than 148 persons at Garissa University in Kenya.
A similar killing spree happened again several days ago in Lahore, Pakistan. And earlier, in France, Belgium and Yemen. More on Yemen later. On Pakistan, CNN reported: “On Easter Sunday, a crisp spring day, some of the city’s Christian population mingled with their Muslim neighbors, celebrating in a neighborhood park—taking their kids on rides or pushing them on swings. Then, the sound of tragedy…
“But the attack, claimed by a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, intentionally targeted Christians, the perpetrators say.
“The suicide blast, in the eastern Pakistan city of Lahore, killed at least 69 people, a local government spokesman told CNN. More than 341 others were injured, according to Punjab government spokesperson Jehangir Awan.
“It comes at a difficult time for Pakistan’s Christians, some of whom were in the city’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park to celebrate the holiday Sunday evening, only to see their Easter Sunday fragment into terror and chaos.”
After the recent terrorist attacks, Pope Francis, in his Easter message, denounced “blind terror” and urged the world to use “weapons of love.”
Early this month, four missionary sisters running a nursing home in Aden, Yemen, were killed by the Islamic State (Isis). The sisters belonged to the Missionaries of Charity established by Blessed Mother Teresa. There was not much media news on the massacre.
I have just received a copy of the gripping account of one of the survivors. It originated from a medical mission sister based in the United Nations. (A number of religious congregations have permanent observer status in the UN.)
The e-mail subject was “Handwritten account of surviving sister of the martyrdom of the Missionary Sisters in Yemen.” Here are excerpts:
“Sr. Rio’s words to Sr. Adriana MC: Friday midday, 4th March 2016, sisters had Mass, breakfast as usual. 8:00 a.m.—said Apostolate prayer and all five went to Home. 8:30 a.m. Isis dressed in blue came in, killed guard and driver.
“Five young Ethiopian men (Christian) began running to tell the sisters Isis was there to kill them. They were killed one by one. They tied them to the trees, shot them in the head and smashed their heads.
“The sisters ran two by two in different directions [to the] Men’s and Ladies’ Homes. Four working women were screaming, ‘Don’t kill the sisters!’ One was the cook for 15 years…
“When the sisters ran in different directions, the superior ran to the convent to warn Fr. Tom. They caught Sr. Judith and Sr. Reginette. First, tied them up, shot them in the head and smashed their heads. They caught Sr. Anslam and Sr. Marguerite tied them, shot them in the head…
“Meanwhile the superior could not get to the convent. It is not clear how many Isis men were there. She saw all the sisters and helpers killed. The Isis men were already getting to the convent so she went to the refrigerator room since the door was open. These Isis men were everywhere, searching for her as they knew they were five. At least three times they came to the refrigerator room. She did not hide but remained standing behind the door. They never saw her. This is miraculous.
“Meanwhile, at the convent, Fr. Tom heard the screaming and consumed all the Hosts. He had no time to consume the large Host so he threw the oil out of the sanctuary lamp and dissolved [the Host] in the water. A neighbor saw Isis put Fr. Tom in their car.
“10:00 or 10:30 a.m.—the Isis men finished and left. Sr. Sally (the superior) came to get the bodies of the sisters… She went to each patient to see if they were OK… Not one was hurt.
“The son of the woman cook who was killed was calling her on her cell phone. She was not answering so he called the police and went with them and found this great massacre…
“The police tried to take Sr. Sally out of there but she refused to leave the people who were crying, ‘Don’t leave us.’ But the police forced her to go with them because the Isis knew there were five sisters and … they will not stop until they kill her, too. So finally she had to leave. She took one set of clothes and the sisters’ bodies. The police brought them to an international hospital called Doctors Without Borders for protection. As there was not enough room in the mortuary of that hospital for the sisters’ bodies, the police brought their bodies to a bigger hospital mortuary.
“Sr. Sally told Sr. Rio she is so sad because she is alone and did not die with the sisters. Sr. Rio told her that God wanted a witness, ‘who would have found the sisters’ bodies and who would ever tell us what happened. God wants us to know.’
“Pope Francis had his secretary contact the Yemen Secretary of State every so often, about once a week, to check up on the sisters and reassure them of his closeness…”
The narrator then provided a backgrounder on Yemen and the port city of Aden.
“Sr. Rio said Sr. Sally is fully surrendered. The police are trying to get her out because [Isis] will keep going after her until they kill her. She told Sr. Rio, whatever God wants. She said the other Muslims are so respectful of them. She said to pray that their blood will be the seeds for peace in the Middle East and to stop the Isis.”
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May the splendor of Easter permeate the darkness in our everyday lives. Lines from the Easter Exsultet: “May [the candle’s] flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ…”
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