Leaders of the Catholic Church on the Arabian Peninsula have expressed dismay at the indifference world opinion has shown in response to the murder of nuns in Yemen. In Aden on March 4, four nuns of the order founded by the soon-to-be canonized Mother Teresa—as well as 12 lay people—were murdered, presumably by Islamic extremists. A monk from India has been missing since then. The nuns’ work involved the care of the elderly and disabled.
In an interview with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Camillo Ballin, who is responsible for the northern part of the region, said: “No one has lifted a finger. It doesn’t interest anyone when it is Christianity that is under attack. The same thing happened to Jesus. They all abandoned him. And this is what is now happening to the Church.”
The prelate, a Comboni Missionary who heads the Bahrain-based Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia, stressed that a “normal” Muslim could not approve of this kind of horrific violence.
The Italian bishop emphasized that the four nuns of the order founded by Mother Teresa were slain out of hatred for the Christian faith. “Thus, they can quite unequivocally be called martyrs,” he said. Three other Missionaries of Charity were murdered in Yemen in 1998.
Bishop Ballin added that “the martyrdom of these nuns is a confirmation that Mother Teresa’s congregation continues to be close to Jesus. Because anyone who draws near to Jesus is always bound to His suffering and His death.” Christians in the region are called to bear witness to Jesus by suffering violence, he said, adding:
“These nuns gave bread to the elderly and disabled Muslims living in their facility. In return, they received gunfire. But God is not absent. He sees everything and knows what He is doing. These fanatics, who have perpetrated this heinous crime, have basically declared to the entire world that these nuns were very close to Jesus—so close that they shared in His end and were killed themselves.”
However, the death of these nuns was not the end, just as the death of Jesus was not His end, the prelate continued, saying Jesus’ death on the cross “was followed by resurrection.”
“The same can be said for these nuns. Their sacrifice was not only made for their personal resurrection, but also for their congregation and for those whom they served, for Yemen and for their murderers,” declared Bishop Ballin.
The bishop believes that only God “will be able to enter into the hearts of these inhuman fanatics. I am convinced that the sacrifice these nuns made will also prove itself valuable to these hearts of stone that continue to spread hate and malice.”
Yemen is currently the scene of a bloody conflict in which both religious and tribal rivalries play a role. According to information provided by the United Nations, the year-long conflict has led to the internal displacement of more than 2.4 million people. Since March 2015, neighboring Saudi Arabia has been intervening on behalf of the Sunni government, which is beleaguered by Huthi rebels, Shiites allied with Iran. Jihadist groups are also active, primarily in the southern parts of the country. In December 2015, jihadists blew up a Catholic church.
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)