For eleven years Sister Aman Miriam has been a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq. Her motherhouse is in Mosul, an ancient center of Christianity that now stands at the center of anti-Christian violence.
Bomb attacks have targeted several churches in Mosul. In recent weeks extremists killed at least eight Christians in the city.
Speaking with CNA in a Thursday phone interview, Sr. Aman said she has lived and ministered with the Adrian Dominicans in Michigan since September 2005.
There Sr. Aman is among five young Iraqi religious sisters engaged in ministry and study.
She said Mosul has been in a “waiting period” pending results of the March 7 elections.
“The situation is not safe,” she said of Mosul. Parents there are not sure that “if they send their children to school they will be back or not.”
“People are suffering violence very day. What do you expect them to do?” Sr. Aman asked. “They do whatever they can to save their children’s lives.”
She reported that over 4,000 people fled from Mosul to her hometown which is outside that city, while “many thousands” left for other villages.
“If the situation calms down, they go back to their houses. If not, they stay where they are. They choose to stay in the villages for the sake of their children.”
Threats against Christians come through phone calls, text messages, and papers thrown in their houses.
“They are not able to practice their faith, they are not able to go to church,” she explained.
On Wednesday the religious sister had spoken by phone with her prioress, who told her, “We don’t know what is going to happen.”
CNA asked whether most Christians are in fact trying to leave Iraq.
Sr. Aman replied that there were over two million Christians in Iraq before the war.
“Right now we are 300,000 people there.”
The security situation is so uncertain because some are “doing their best” to protect the country, while others “are working behind the scenes, taking a lot of effort to destroy the innocent people.” Sr. Aman reported that terrorists sometimes even dress as police, making people even more doubtful about who to trust.
CNA asked what she would say to President Barack Obama if given the opportunity to speak with him about Iraqi Christians.
“Where is the freedom?” Sr. Aman replied.
“When the war started, it was to give the freedom to Iraqi people from the prior government. Where is the freedom now?”
The Iraqi sister added that she would also like to tell President Obama that the American people need to know the violence continues even though it isn't shown on television in the United States. The little bit of information about the real situation in Iraq that is in newspapers is not enough to tell the truth of the continuing violence, she said.
Sr. Aman recounted that under the previous government, people remained outside until 11 or 12 at night. After the invasion, they were afraid to be out later than 3 or 5 in the afternoon.
In the years after the invasion, the U.S. Army had freedom of movement, but Iraqi citizens did not.
In the Dominican sister’s view, if other countries had wanted to help Iraq there were “many ways to approach it, not by violence or by war.”
She also thought Iraq’s unprotected open borders after the U.S. invasion allowed other terrorists to enter the country.
Sr. Aman reflected further on what she would say to the American president.
“We are human beings, as you are here,” she continued. “There are many, many, many, many people suffering in Iraq. Why? Aren’t they human beings like here? Haven’t they the right to live the life that God gave to all of his creatures?
“We are all God’s creatures, His sons and daughters. Why is this happening to us?”
At present only five to six sisters remain at Sr. Aman’s motherhouse in Mosul.
“Generally the sisters who are really living in the situation in Iraq, they are tired. The people are tired,” she told CNA. “But they are doing their best to give hope, to accompany the Church, to accompany the Christians in their journey and hardship.
“But I would say to you: they are tired, like other people.”