These nuns are careful not to proselytize, as that would earn them antagonism in a land where proselytizing by non-Muslims is forbidden. But they have won the hearts of many in Cyrenaica by their love — which probably infuriated all the more the Islamic supremacists who threatened them and forced them to flee the country. Will any Western Christians speak for them? Will Bishop Robert McManus of the diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts allow any discussion of their plight and of the Muslim persecution of Christians in his diocese? Or would such discussion be “Islamophobic”?
“Islamists chase nuns from Libya, people pray for their return,” by Simone Cantarini for Asia News, February 1 (thanks to Jerk Chicken):
Rome (AsiaNews) – “Islamic extremists threatened us to leave, not the Libyan people, who instead protected us by coming to visit every day until our departure”, Sister Celeste Biasolo, former superior of the convent of the Holy Family of Spoleto in Derna tells AsiaNews. In October she was forced to leave Libya with four other sisters, because of the spread of Islamic extremists in Cyrenaica. The situation described by the religious is also confirmed by Msgr. Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, who recently pointed out that two other religious communities will leave Cyrenaica after having been threatened by Islamists: the Franciscan Sisters of the Infant Jesus of Barce and the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Beida.
Sister Celeste Biasolo describes a climate of fear in Cyrenaica, which is especially affecting the Libyan people: “The same Muslim population is being terrorized by this situation. The people of Derna miss us and often contact us imploring us to come back. At Christmas more than 100 families called to our monastery in Spoleto with greetings for us”. “In Cyrenaica – she explains – the Islamists do not want to attack the Church as such, but the West, and unfortunately we are seen as foreigners. This is because the country is without a government and can not even guarantee the security of its citizens”.
The presence of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Spoleto in Libya dates back to 1921. The founder of the Institute, Blessed Peter Bonilli, wanted to open a mission in Cyrenaica, in the city of Derna. Sister Celeste notes that until their departure, the mission of the religious and the Church in Libya has focused primarily on health care and care for the elderly. “In these years – she says – we have tried to show joy of his own life of Christians and the Gospel through our presence and humanitarian work.” According to the religious this struck the Muslim population who continue to consider the sisters a fundamental part of their community.