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Interview with an Iraqi Dominican
The Face of a People

ADRIAN, MI October 16, 2006--Dominican Sr. Diana Momeka, OP is a courageous woman, quietly passionate, small boned, with delicate fingers. She speaks a hard truth.

Diana is living in Michigan and working at a Dearborn literacy center. She is among three Iraqi Dominicans who came to the United States at the invitation of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian. She is a living reminder that the Iraqi people are not the enemy of the United States.

Diana met with members of the Iraq Coordinating Committee to talk about the present situation in her country. What she says will make you angry, make you sad. She will force you to recognize that the war in Iraq has many faces: our own US troops, our own political leaders, but most of all, she puts a face on innocent people forced to flee, forced to fight, to endure a war they never declared.

With an outward calm that belies her pain, Diana describes life in her country. ""You cannot walk down the street, she says, and know if the person walking in front of you will kill you or not. " So many foreigners are moving into Iraq to incite violence and murder that no one is safe anymore.

"We used to feel safer before the Pope's statement," she said. Prior to the September comments of Benedict XVI at the University of Regensburg, Muslims were friends to their Christian neighbors. But a recent incident at the Motherhouse in Mosul illustrates the change in attitude.

The local imman instructed the sisters not to ring their church bells anymore, but to use the bell only for an emergency. "You are our daughters, we will protect you," he said. Then Pope Benedict's remarks at a theological conference sparked outrage among Muslims who were deeply offended by his words.

An attempt was made to set fire to the front gates of the Motherhouse in Mosul, a flamable liquid, probably gasoline, was poured on the doors and bandits tried to break into the garden. The sisters rang the emergency bell, but no one came to help them. Eventually the intruders were chased off and no one was hurt. Later, an older sister died, but not as a result of the attempted break-in.

"The pope made it much worse for us, his talk was a big mistake," she said. Our friends have turned against us because of him. Christians have offended Islam. Two churches in Mosul have been bombed and some people in the town want to take over one of the churches and turn it into a mosque.

According to Diana, things could not be worse than what they are now. She notes that thousands of Iraqis are fleeing Baghdad to other cities deemed safer. Recently, many sisters have moved from Mosul to other Christian villages. Diana has two brothers who live in Baghdad, but they cannot move out of the city. With downcast eyes, she said, "I worry about them."

In Karakosh, people are living ten to fifteen people in one apartment. It is very expensive to live there and Christians are fleeing there to find safety.

In Baghdad, electricity is only availble a few hours a day, on a good day. On October 5th, the day of this interview, the temperature in Baghdad was 93 degrees. The Dominicans run a 35-bed hospital there. Medicine is hard to come by for them. Think Charity Hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. That's every day in Baghdad. US medical personnel have plenty of supplies and medicine in nearby triage centers.

Diana insists that US military forces have become a magnet for more violence. Insurgents from other countries are swarming into Iraq to fight US troops and incite religious intolerance among Iraq's diverse population. Mostly in Baghdad, which has become ground zero in the fight for the soul of Iraq.

She belives it is a myth to think that US troop presence is keeping the country from civil war. As long as the US government insists on staying, foreign suicide bombers and insurgents will continue to pour into Iraq to fight the United States. The war in Iraq is more about a war against America -- the violence of Sunni and Shia is one layer of the conflict -- fueled by outsiders who want to expel the US from the Middle East.

"Where is the democracy Bush wanted for us? We can stand on our own, without the United States," she said. Diana notes that when the Italian coalition forces left Basra, in southern Iraq, the Iraqis were put in charge and things are safe. The US government cannot adjust to the reality that Iraqis can govern themselves and create a country of their own making.

Late last week, Dominicans reported that Fr. Poles Scander, a Assyriac Orthodox priest was kidnapped and later beheaded. Fr. Scander has a wife and several children. They believe that Fr. Scander not killed by Iraqi Muslims but by terrorists from outside the country in an attempt to force Christians out of Iraq.

In the meantime, Christians are caught in the middle of the fighting in which the enemy is almost indistinguishable from the neighbors. "We do not know who to trust, so we do not trust anybody," she says.

Anne Lythgoe, OP
Editor, Dominican Life USA


Profession Ceremony of our Iraqi Dominican Sisters
Visit a Bahgdad website with photos (September, 2006) Use this link and scroll down the page

The Intimacies of War: A Personal Reflection
on a Global Tragedy

Sr. Rihab Mousa, OP

Iraq Perspectives

Statement from the Iraq Coordinating Committee

Iraqi School System
Near Collapse

Iraq Body Count

Pope Benedict's statement of apology re: his remarks on Islam


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