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
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,"
Anne Lythgoe, OP
Editor, Dominican Life USA