On Friday, 4 March 2016, sixteen people were murdered in a terrorist attack at a nursing home in Aden, the main city on the coast of southern Yemen. The dead comprised four nuns, who served in the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Blessed Mother Teresa, plus eight elderly residents, their guards, and a gardener.
The nursing home was established by Mother Teresa’s helpers in cooperation with the Yemeni government’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, but was clearly marked by a large sign as “Mother Teresa’s Home.”
The March 4 atrocity illustrated the brutal nature of sectarian violence, revealing lessons for all believers in the monotheistic faiths, Christian, Muslim, or Jewish (the last had a thriving community in Yemen until the 20th century).
The sisters of the Missionaries of Charity who worked in Yemen could not have imagined that their activities there would be easier than their programmes of care-giving for the poor and sick elsewhere. In 1998, the Missionaries of Charity had been targeted in the Yemeni town of Hodeida on the Red Sea, with three nuns slain. They accepted the responsibility placed upon them and ended up surrendering their lives to pursue the pledge of their order. Experiencing suffering all over the world, they saw their assignments in Yemen as no more than a new chapter in their commitment. From India, Sunita Kumar, a spokeswoman for the Missionaries, said the dead nuns in Aden had been scheduled to return from Yemen but that “they opted to stay on to serve people.”
In response to the latest crime, Holy Father Pope Francis declared, “These are the martyrs of today! They are not on the front page of newspapers; they are not news. They are the people who give blood for the Church. These people are the victims of those who have murdered them but also of the indifference, of this global indifference of those who do not care.”
The nursing home in Yemen is truly “Mother Teresa’s house” in that it is placed on the front line of the global confrontation between mercy and evil. In the struggle to combat fanaticism and the terrorism it breeds, selfless believers such as those who have flocked to Mother Teresa are indispensable examples. The killers of the Missionaries of Charity did more harm to their Yemeni patients than can be done to the order or to Christianity.
One should not wish for more martyrs for the Catholic Church or any other religious community. But Pope Francis is correct in noting how little attention is paid to the martyrs of the present time. We cannot defeat those who deny our belief in humanity without affirming our values by work and sacrifice. More individuals will be called to the Missionaries of Charity, and more will doubtless be martyred. – firstthings