'Why should we leave our country? What have we done?'
Initially denied a visa to the US, Sister Diana Momeka, OP, of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Mosul, Iraq appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee May 13, 2015 to testify about ISIS's war on religious minorities. Her visit to the United States was sponsored by two Washington-area organizations, the Institute for Global Engagement and 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. Here follows an excerpt from her testimony.
By Sister Diana
There are many who say "Why don't the Christians just leave Iraq and move
to another country and be done with it?" To this question we would
respond, "Why should we leave our country – what have we done?"
The Christians of Iraq are the first people of the land. You read about us in
the Old Testament of the Bible. Christianity came to Iraq from the very
earliest days through the preaching and witness of St. Thomas and others of the
Apostles and Church Elders.
While our ancestors experienced all kinds of persecution, they stayed in their
land, building a culture that has served humanity for the ages. We, as
Christians, do not want or deserve to leave or be forced out of our country any
more than you would want to leave or be forced out of yours.
But the current persecution that our community is facing is the most brutal in
our history. Not only have we been robbed of our homes, property and land, but
our heritage is being destroyed as well. ISIS has been and continues to
demolish and bomb our churches, cultural artifacts and sacred places like Mar
Behnam and Sara, a fourth century monastery and St. Georges Monastery in Mosul.
Uprooted and forcefully displaced, we have realized that ISIS' plan is to
evacuate the land of Christians and wipe the earth clean of any evidence that
we ever existed. This is cultural and human genocide. The only Christians that
remain in the Plain of Nineveh are those who are held as hostages.
The loss of the Christian Community from the Plain of Nineveh has placed the
whole region on the edge of a terrible catastrophe. Christians have for
centuries been the bridge that connects Eastern and Western cultures.
Destroying this bridge will leave an isolated, inculturated conflict zone
emptied of cultural and religious diversity. Through our presence as
Christians, we're called to be a force for good, for peace, for connection
To restore, repair and rebuild the Christian community in Iraq, the following
needs are urgent:
our homes from ISIS and helping us return.
an effort to rebuild what was destroyed – roads, water and electrical
supplies, and buildings, including our churches and monasteries.
enterprises that contribute to the rebuilding of Iraq and inter-religious
dialogue. This could be through schools, academics and pedagogical
I am but one, small person – a victim myself of ISIS and all
of its brutality. Coming here has been difficult for me – as a religious sister
I am not comfortable with the media and so much attention. But I am here, and I
am here to ask you, to implore you for the sake of our common humanity, to help
us. Stand with us as we, as Christians, have stood with all the people of the
world and help us. We want nothing more than to go back to our lives; we want
nothing more than to go home.
Thank you and God bless you.
Sister Diana; photo courtesy Nina Shea/Hudson Institute