“With the Cross I will carry with me the Iraqi people, its Christian martyrs, all the suffering endured so far. A special thought will go to the Sisters of my congregation who underwent so many sorrows for the war and for all those who have not yet discovered Jesus.”
Sister Genevieve Al Haday, Iraqi nun of the Dominican Order of St. Catherine, is filled with emotion while she tells SIR that she was chosen to carry the Cross during the Via Crucis to the Colosseum with Pope Francis, next Good Friday. “I still don’t know which Station I will bring it to”, said with a smile the nun from the Christian village of Qaraqosh, in the Niniveh Plains, one of the many villages invaded by the Islamic State on the night of August 6 2014, when approximately 120 thousand Christians were forced to flee to Erbil, in Kurdistan, to escape the violence of Jihadi militants.
Clear memories. Sister Genevieve has a very clear memory of that night: “I was in the village of Telluskof. With four other Sisters we managed to get into a bus to Duhok bringing elderly and disabled people with us. It was ten o’clock in the evening. A ride that usually lasted 20 minutes took more than three hours.” It was time sufficient to make us understand that the “Exodus” of the Christians of Nineveh was taking place before our own eyes.
“I saw people fleeing by foot, carrying with them the few items they managed to take from their homes, headed towards the desert without knowing what they would find. ‘Displaced among the displaced’, we remained with our Christian people, day and night, especially near the children. Today, thanks God, over 10 thousand people have returned to Qaraqosh and we reopened a school, two kindergartens and an orphanage. For us this is a sign of Resurrection and hope. The Cross saves everyone.”
Reborn from the ruins of war. The nun has same hope of salvation for Iraq and for the Countries at war in the Middle East. “To this Cross that I was called to carry – added Sister Genevieve – I will entrust the hopes of my land, Iraq, that hopes to be reborn from the ruins of war. Easter makes us extend our gaze to the Skies and to the future with hope. We want to see the renaissance of our land together with our Muslim brothers and sisters with whom we have no problem. The Christian presence in Iraq epitomizes their faithfulness to this land. All we want is to live in peace in a free, stable Country, side by side with all Iraqi inhabitants. We are Iraqis and we are all sons and daughters of God. If I ever have the possibility of meeting Pope Francis I will ask him to pray for our Iraq, that it may remain faithful to Jesus.”
Tears of loneliness. “May the world find peace and serenity, that Christian and non-believing populations may live together in mutual respect, in charity, in justice, in the rule of law. These are the most important values that should not be disregarded. The world needs Christian love, communion and sharing. We have experienced the beauty of communion thanks to the solidarity we received from world countries after ISIS’ invasion.” Kinship has no borders, from Iraq to Italy: “Three days ago an elderly woman who lives here in Rome, near our home, knocked on our door. As soon as she came in she broke out in tears. They were tears of loneliness that made me reflect on the loneliness of Jesus in the Garden of Olives. So I decided that on Friday evening, at the Colosseum, that small Cross would also carry the tears of this woman and the tears of so many people who feel lonely and abandoned.”