By Oliver Maksan
The Catholic Church on the Arabian Peninsula has expressed its dismay at the indifference world opinion has shown in response to the nuns murdered in Yemen. In Aden on March 4, 2016, four nuns of the order founded by the Blessed Mother Teresa, whose work involved the care of the elderly and disabled—as well as 12 lay people—were murdered, presumably by Islamic extremists. A monk from India has been missing since then.
In an interview with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Camillo Ballin, who is responsible for the northern part of the region, said: “No one has lifted a finger. It doesn’t interest anyone when it is Christianity that is under attack.”
“The same thing happened to Jesus. They all abandoned Him. And this is what is now happening to the Church.”
The prelate, a Comboni Missionary who heads the Bahrain-based Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia, stressed that a “normal” Muslim could not approve of this kind of horrific violence.
The Italian bishop emphasized that the four nuns of the order founded by Mother Teresa were slain out of hatred for the Christian faith. “Thus, they can quite unequivocally be called martyrs,” he said.
Three other Missionaries of Charity were murdered in Yemen in 1998.
Bishop Ballin added that “the martyrdom of these nuns is a confirmation that Mother Teresa’s congregation continues to be close to Jesus. Because anyone who draws near to Jesus is always bound to His suffering and His death.”
Christians in the region are called to bear witness to Jesus by suffering violence, he said, adding: “These nuns gave bread to the elderly and disabled Muslims living in their facility. In return, they received gunfire.”
“But God is not absent. He sees everything and knows what He is doing. These fanatics, who have perpetrated this heinous crime, have basically declared to the entire world that these nuns were very close to Jesus—so close that they shared in His end and were killed themselves.”
However, the death of these nuns was not the end, just as the death of Jesus was not His end, the prelate continued, saying Jesus’ death on the cross “was followed by resurrection.”
“The same can be said for these nuns. Their sacrifice was not only made for their personal resurrection, but also for their congregation and for those whom they served, for Yemen and for their murderers,” declared Bishop Ballin.
The bishop believes that only God “will be able to enter into the hearts of these inhuman fanatics. I am convinced that the sacrifice these nuns made will also prove itself valuable to these hearts of stone that continue to spread hate and malice.”
Yemen is currently the scene of a bloody conflict in which both religious and tribal rivalries play a role. According to information provided by the United Nations, the year-long conflict has led to the internal displacement of more than 2.4 million people.
Since March 2015, neighboring Saudi Arabia has been intervening on behalf of the Sunni government, which is beleaguered by Huthi rebels, Shiites allied with Iran. Jihadist groups are also active, primarily in the southern parts of the country.
In December 2015, jihadists blew up a Catholic church.
Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.