5 January 2012
In this photo from 2003, Sister Nahla tends to a patient at the Al Jamh-Al Zahrawi Hospital in Mosul, Iraq, where she has been working since May. (photo: Philip Toscano-Heighton)
Today, the Washington Post reported that a suicide bomber targeting Shiites killed at least 72 people in Baghdad — the highest one-day death toll since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December. This bombing is one in a series of recent attacks resulting in many causalities. In the midst of so much turmoil and suffering, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena have been a safety net for Iraqis affected by war for many years. In the January 2004 issue of the magazine, Jill Carroll wrote about their work with the wounded and sick:
Others, like Sister Nahla Francis, work outside the convent. Sister Nahla started working as a nurse six months ago at the nearby Al Jamh-Al Zahrawi Hospital in Mosul. She monitors life-support machines, feeds patients and changes bed linens. Many patients are recovering from gunshot wounds and other life-threatening injuries.
She is the only sister in the hospital and often has to explain to Muslim patients what a sister is.
“I saw a lot of different cases here. One patient came who had lost her legs and her family,” said Sister Nahla, who has been a member of the community for six years. “She told me, ‘I want to die because I have nothing to live for.’”
In such cases, “I can only pray for the patient,” said Sister Nahla.
Equally trying was the death of many children brought to the hospital during the war, she said. “The community gave me spiritual support and encouragement to continue my work here.”
Since that report, Sister Nahla has left Iraq; she now works at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, which is also supported by CNEWA.
Meantime, the author of the story, Jill Carroll, came to know all-too-well the nightmare of Iraq. In 2006, she was kidnapped by Sunni Muslim insurgents and spent nearly three months in captivity before finally being released. You can read more about her story in The Christian Science Monitor.
For more, read In the Shadow of War. To learn how you can help support the sisters and hospitals in Iraq, visit our website.
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