Although the Syrian refugee crisis has been in the forefront, there are many other countries that have their own refugee situation. Some experts believe that Yemen is the next refugee crisis, as there are currently about 2.4 million people who have been displaced because of the war. The greatest percentage of these refugees are Somali. Although the government of Yemen was unified in 1990, the civil war over the last few years has increased displacement because of the weakened economy and political instability.
The Loss of Four Catholic Nuns
For 24 years, the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen, has taken care of the elderly. Religion and faith were never considered when the nuns of the convent took in the poor and disabled at the nursing home where they had between 60 to 80 residents. The charity was a branch of the one founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The nuns came from other countries, leaving behind all they knew to serve those in distress. On March 4, gunmen attacked the convent and killed four nuns. A priest from Kerala, India, disappeared during the attack. Diplomatic efforts are underway to negotiate his release, but no information is available as of this writing.
None of the residents were killed, but 12 other volunteers also died in the attack. One of the nuns who was killed was from India, while two came from Rwanda, and the fourth was from Kenya. As of this writing, no group has claimed responsibility for the slaughter. These deaths are just a small percentage of the lives that have been claimed over the past year in the Yemeni civil war.
The nuns were aware of the violent situation and given the opportunity to leave. The Bishop who spoke with the nuns believes that it wasn’t heroism that made them stay, but their commitment and dedication to their work. These nuns held the belief that the people they served were entrusted into their care. Some believe the nuns will be remembered as martyrs for their faith.
Standing Against Oppression
On March 4, the same date of the Yemen attack, The Catholic Universe published an article written by Bishop Declan Lang, the chair of the UK-based Catholic Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs. In it, he writes, “The persecution of atheists is a grave violation of human dignity throughout the world.” He holds that this oppression violates basic human rights and it “represents a degradation of the fundamental principle that people should be free to hold their own beliefs without fearing for their life or liberty.”
Many times throughout history, one minority group has been oppressed only to have others follow the same fate in future generations. Lang called for the Catholic Church in England and Wales to take a stand and speak out when atheists are persecuted. Although the Catholic Church has had its own PR issues throughout the years, it does deserve a great deal of credit for standing up for atheists.
In the wake of losing four dedicated nuns, the Catholic Church certainly needs solidarity to take a stand against oppression based on religious or non-religious beliefs. While Al-Qaeda had denied responsibility for the attack in Yemen, there is a great deal of unrest from Islamic extremists who stand against anyone with different beliefs. The nuns who died didn’t care about the faith of those they ministered to. They, like many others, were no threat to Islam community, but were killed. Other Catholic churches in Aden have been vandalized and sabotaged.
It may be that one person can’t change those halfway around the globe. However, you can promote peace in your corner of the world. Know what’s happening in other countries to understand how blessed you are to be safe.