Last evening, I attended a reception for Iraqi Dominican Sisters here in Washington. It was hosted by several former State Department employees who met the Sisters in Baghdad and are trying to help them develop their ministry.
I was so struck by speakers from the United States who spoke about protecting the Christian minority in the Middle East. But when the Sisters spoke, they repeated over and over that they serve everyone and that the only way forward is through reconciliation of all people. They said favoring one over another was not good for peace, so they are trying to serve all.
Mother Marie Therese spoke of the expanding ministry and said that she is so happy that they have two novices and a candidate. She also talked about the maternity hospital in Baghdad that Sr. Bushra runs. They see 50 women a day, which is more than their 56-bed hospital can handle. She said that an expansion is in process.
Mother also rejoices that Sisters they had sent to the United States for safety and studies are beginning to return to ministry. The Sister who was translating for Sr. Marie Therese just graduated from Chicago Theological Union with a PhD in Theology, and she is going back to Iraq to work with women. She told me that she wants to help women find their voices so that they can be peace-builders there.
Our discussion was such a contrast to our Bishops’ approach to what they perceive as religious intolerance. Rather than continuing the fight, the Sisters are trying to find common ground and build a new country. Their message of peace and engagement eased my heart and gave me joy. Yet again, I know the value of the witness of Women Religious all over the world. We live close to the pain of the world so we strive for hope and healing for our fractured world.
When I left, I asked that the Sisters remember all of us in prayer as we remember them. We spoke of our challenges in the U.S. Church and theirs in Iraq. I promised my prayer for them and invite you to hold these amazing peace-building women in your heart.
May we follow their witness to live in love with courage and grace according to the Gospel. That life will build peace and reconciliation.