This episode is in honor of the lives of the four Sisters from the Missionaries of Charities who lost their lives in the midst of the Yemen crisis in 2016.
“Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world. Find ways to be with those who are suffering by all means, including personal contact and visits, images, sounds. By such means, ...awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world. If we get in touch with the suffering of the world, and are moved by that suffering, we may come forward to help the people who are suffering.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
As of 2018, the Yemen war is entering the fourth year of turmoil. In 2011, a power shift in presidency from longtime authoritarian Ali Abdullah Saleh to Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi resulted in a weakening of government power, leading to a rebellion by the Houthis. According to Vox, the current political crisis of Yemen involves the “Houthis...from the country's northwest…[who] are religiously Zaydi, an offshoot of mainstream Shia Islam. Yemen's Zaydis are concentrated in the north, while southern Yemen is largely Sunni. This conflict isn't over religion, but that religious divide ends up being important for understanding what's going on. Yemen's Zaydi community believes the central government has repressed them and hasn't addressed their interests.”
As a result of this repression, the Houthis have rebelled against the transitional government that was set up after the country worked together to overthrow previous dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Yemen war is comprised of multiple sides including the Shia Muslim Houthis backed by Iran, Sunni Muslims backed by Saudi Arabia, al-Qaeda, and ISIS.
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and the United Nations have classified the crisis in Yemen as a Level 3 emergency, the highest level for humanitarian emergency. As of 2016, 14.8 million need access to healthcare, 14.1 million are in need of food assistance, and 2.2 million remain displaced. April 2017, marks the beginning of a cholera outbreak, a diarrheal disease that is caused by a lack of clean water and poor sanitation. As of 2018, there is a total of 22 million Yemenis who are in need of humanitarian assistance.
Aden, Yemen March 4th, 2016 two gunmen entered the Missionaries of Charity's convent, which is a home health care center, and killed sixteen people. Of these sixteen, four were Catholic Sisters who left their homes to serve the poor. Sr Marguerite Mukashema and Sr Reginette were from Rwanda while Sr Anslem was from India and Sr. Judith from Kenya.
According to Catholic News Agency, the Sisters and the other victims from Ethiopia and Yemen were “found handcuffed and shot in the head.” Luckily, the convent’s Superior, Sr Sally was able to escape before the gunmen found her. She had locked herself in the fridge to get away from the gunmen.
The Missionaries of Charity was founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. As Mother Teresa states, the mission of this congregation is to serve "the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone." They have been present in Aden, Yemen since 1992 and have continued sending sisters to volunteer and take care of those in need.
In an interview with Bishop Smaragde of the Diocese of Kabgayi, he said, “We were informed of their deaths by the Apostolic Nuncio. We deeply regret their deaths but stay proud for their sacrifice that resulted in deaths. We consider them martyrs and they are… Usually, when missionaries die, they are buried in countries where they have been serving. This means that they will be inhumed in Yemen. Although we are waiting for the decision of the congregation of sisters of charity to which they belonged, there is little chance of their bodies coming…They have set a good example of selflessness, serving in such an unsafe country. That spirit compelled them to stay for the sake of others though they could have left.”
After the morning mass and before breakfast, the sisters always recited the following prayer, “Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward.” This would have been the last prayer that they recited before the attack happened.
The sisters were originally set to leave Aden, Yemen after volunteering for a certain amount of time, however, they decided to stay back and continue working at the care center as it was their calling to help those in need. This year, Sr Anslem from India would’ve turned 62 years old; Sr Judith would’ve turned 43 years; Sr Margeurite and Sr Reginette from Rowanda would’ve turned 48 and 35, respectively.
“Your calling is to belong to Jesus. He has chosen you for himself, and work is only a means of love for him in action” -Mother Teresa
Coverage of Yemen Crisis: