By: Fr Terry Tastard
A Dominican sister held a central London audience spellbound as she spoke about her congregation's work in the rebuilding of the Christian communities of Iraq, following the devastation wrought by ISIS. The meeting was organised on 11th October by Aid to the Church in Need, which had organised a UK tour by the Dominican sister and others from the suffering Church.
Sr Luma Khuder OP told the meeting at Notre Dame University's base in Westminster that Christian refugees from her region had been living in container homes for three years. Most of the refugees had found safety in the Kurdish autonomous region. Here the sisters had established schools, helped traumatised families and organised catechising of the young. Within three years one of the pre-fab schools that they had established was recognised as one of the best in Erbil, the Kurdish capital.
"To make sense of what had happened to us we turned to the Bible," she said. "We found the psalms of exile, with their bitterness and lament, spoke to us. We also found ourselves asking the question of Ezekiel 37: Can these dry bones live? But the faith of the people remained strong."
When the Christian towns like Qaraqosh were liberated in 2017 and the refugees returned, they were, she said, totally shocked. "Everything had been destroyed, with particular care taken to smash altars and crucifixes. 15000 homes had been destroyed in the region. Now in Qaraqosh you could hear the sound of hammers and tools everywhere as people rebuilt. However, many of the people were now dispersed in other countries. So far 42% of the pre-war population had returned."
Sr Luma paid particular tribute to the work of NGOs. "Without the world church we would not have survived one month" she said. "When their help came it was like a miracle."
After the meeting Fr Terry Tastard presented her with a donation of £750 for the work of the sisters in Iraq. The money had been donated by the Priestly Fraternity of Our Lady of the Rosary, a tertiary fellowship of priests that is affiliated to the Dominican Order. The fraternity had been moved by the report on the work of the sisters given by Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, the former Master of the Order, following his visit to Iraq.
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