Sister Sophie Boudri Awarded For Work With Palestinian Orphans In Bethlehem

«No Justice Without Forgiveness,» «Mother» of Abandoned Children Says

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ROME, MAY 13, 2002 ( orphans were able to eat at the height of the siege in Bethlehem, thanks to the tireless dedication of their «Mother.»

Lebanese Sister Sophie Boudri is the directress of the century old orphanage in Bethlehem run by the Daughters of Charity. The orphanage depends on the donations of pilgrims who are also housed there as guests.

The «La Creche,» as the orphanage is called, is committed to the care of children, most of whom are illegitimate and rejected by Palestinian families, «ashamed» of a daughter´s pregnancy out of wedlock.

Sister Sophie was present in Rome on Saturday to receive the Bellisario award, in recognition for her work. The award was conferred by the Association of Italian Enterprises (Confindustria).

A small, thin figure, Sister Sophie began her testimony saying: «I bring you the suffering of Palestinian, Jewish, and Christian women. We are women and God has put tenderness and love in our hearts. With this love we will save the world.»

–Q: You have succeeded in moving a rich, opulent, and rampant world. Are you surprised?

–Sister Sophie: There are good things in the world. Even if someone is rich, he has something in the depth of his heart. Man suffers atrociously within himself. We Christians are not much appreciated in the Holy Land. However, I think that only with profound love will we be able to spread a message, to do something for this suffering land. Our weapon is charity and charity is everything.

–Q: Why did you stay to help these children given the circumstances?

–Sister Sophie: We have mercy and forgiveness, which others do not have in their culture. Through these two gifts we can do much. In Palestine, when there is an attack it is answered with another, but it isn´t the solution. The key to all is to look at man with love and forgiveness. This is not easy, so there will never be justice.

–Q: Why is it difficult to be a woman in Palestine?

–Sister Sophie: The Muslim faith does not give woman much importance. She is appreciated while she is able to bear children. Then, all it takes is a yes or no from her husband for her to be abandoned, to be replaced by a younger woman. Instead, the Christian religion has done much for woman´s concrete redemption, for the equality of rights of men and women.

–Q: When you say these things, you are going against a deeply rooted culture. Have you ever been afraid?

–Sister Sophie: Never. I say these things to them. I do so to call for respect for the rights of children. Those who are abandoned have the right to a family, to a surname, but for the Muslim religion, there are only three names for abandoned children. It does not permit full adoption, rather, for tutelage. Muslims have also signed the International Charter of Children´s Rights, but they have stated clearly that they will apply it their way.

–How can the conflict be solved?

–Sister Sophie: The Palestinians say: «We have lost everything and we will go all the way, even if we all die.» There would be peace only if a prophet arrived and said: «You have a right to land, to a house.» Now there is no security for the future.

–Is there no personality who could take the place of a prophet?

–Sister Sophie: I don´t see him. Perhaps more women are needed in government. Women reason with their heart. At present, it is not enough to reason strictly with reason.

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