Missionary Sisters of Charity murdered in Yemen Missionary Sisters of Charity murdered in Yemen 

Bishop Hinder: Yemen's martyred sisters reveal depths of Jesus' love

In an interview with Vatican News, Bishop Paul Hinder, Emeritus Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, recalls how the Missionary Sisters of Charity martyred in 2016 in Yemen reveal to others the presence of Jesus' love, and underscores the value of the new Vatican Commission to gather the testimonies of all modern Christian martyrs for the faith.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

"The sisters showed me, 'Here is the love of Jesus Christ,' and they were always smiling, even when the situation didn't seem to warrant smiles."

In an interview with Vatican News - Vatican Radio, Bishop Paul Hinder, Emeritus Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, who led the Church in the region at the time, remembered the four martyred Missionary Sisters of Charity who in March 2016 were murdered when gunmen stormed a Catholic retirement home, run by Mother Teresa's nuns in Yemen's port city of Aden. 

Bishop Hinder maintains that their martyrdom has left a profound legacy of witnessing love for Christ and others until the very end. He shares how the vicariate instituted a memorial day for modern martyrs, including the martyred sisters, in order to never forget that "we have also nowadays, in our midst, witnesses for Jesus Christ and the faith in Him, and even people who are ready to pay with their lives."

In the interview, the Swiss-born Bishop, whose territory encompassed Yemen for his tenure as Apostolic Vicar and Administrator in Arabia, recalls their example, in a special way, on the same day that Pope Francis released a letter announcing the establishment of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints' "Commission for the New Martyrs - Witnesses of the Faith", in view of the Jubilee of 2025. The working group's objective will be to draw up a catalogue of all Christians who have shed their blood to confess Christ and bear witness to the Gospel. 

Pope Francis, during his General Audience on 19 April 2023, recalled Sisters Anselm, Marguerite, Reginette and Judith, killed together that day as "the martyrs of our time." In Yemen, "a land that, for many years, has been wounded by a terrible, forgotten war, which has caused many deaths and still causes many people to suffer today, especially children," the Pope recalled, there are "shining witnesses of faith, such as that of the Missionary Sisters of Charity," who, despite, "giving their life there," "are still present" and "keep going."

Q: Bishop Hinder, what has been the legacy, the testimony, given by the martyrdom of the Missionary Sisters of Charity in Yemen?

Their testimony is the testimony of faithfulness to Jesus Christ until the last moment, even in a situation of war and risk, where someone can be killed not only by a fanatic, but it can be even other reasons.

The testimony of the sisters in this situation of Yemen, especially in Aden in 2016, for me, it was always, they haven't run away. They remained in a critical situation close to the poor people of whom they had to take care. They did it with dedication, and a commitment of joy, of faithfulness towards the most pure and handicapped people, which has always impressed me.

Every year, I was visiting the sisters and their homes, where I met the sick, the elderly, and looked at the faces of the people they cared for.

“The sisters showed me, 'Here is the love of Jesus Christ.'”

It was incarnated in the behavior and in the actions and in the witness of the sisters, and I think that counts. Even if they couldn't speak too openly about the Gospel in the Islamic country, their life and their behavior, their actions, spoke more than words. That has also marked me during all the years when I was in charge of this reality in Yemen.

Q: Do you have particular memories of these sisters?

It was simply this experience to see their faithfulness and joy.

“I found these sisters always smiling, even though I knew that the situation was not always to be a smiling one.”

That was visible also in their entourage, with the collaborators who were mainly Muslim, but they lived in the reality in the context of the sisters, and they paid equally, with their lives. The simple fact that they collaborated with the Christian sisters, made for a kind of, I would say, 'interreligious ecumenism of the blood,' which speaks much stronger than any word. I witnessed a beautiful reality when I visited them, be it in Aden, or elsewhere, in all the places where, earlier, the sisters could be present.

I am proud that we had this reality in a corner of the world where nobody would expect that such life can be lived, and such witness can be given. 

“It may not find place in the headlines of the newspapers or of other channels, but it is a witness that is engraved in the heart of many people who have experienced and continue to experience the love of these Missionaries of Charity.”

Now, some have paid for their life, with their life. Others continue to do what they can, in the present situation of the war-torn country.

Q: What is the value of the Church recognizing these new martyrs, including these martyred sisters, and those around the world who have given their lives for the faith and to help others?

There is always the risk that we are short in our memory. And especially in our day, there are so many new things happening, bad things and good things that what we know today, tomorrow is forgotten. It is good not to forget the witnesses of the past, not only of the remote past, which are in the calendar of the Saints, but also the meridians.

That's why we have introduced the 30th of June in our vicariate as a memorial day of the modern martyrs also for the sisters who are not canonized yet, but just not to forget that we have also nowadays, in our midst, witnesses for Jesus Christ and the faith in Him, and even people who are ready to pay with their life. It shows it is worthy to keep in our memory, on our agenda, on our calendars, and not forget.

We must not forget that we are standing on the shoulders of other witnesses who have paid their price, like Jesus Christ, so we can go forward with a faith which is not only troubled by all the scandals, but also strengthened by people who until the last moment were ready to endure even the martyrdom in the name of Jesus Christ.

Q: Pope Francis has spoken about the martyrs on numerous occasions, also in a recent General Audience, but in various contexts. But on Wednesday there was the announcement of this concrete initiative of this Commission to remember the new martyrs and those who have died or been killed for the faith. What value do you see in this?

That we don't forget, that we are aware, that at the present time, there is not only the generation of Christian faith around the world, there are valuable witnesses. They pay with their lives for the witness of the Gospel. Of course, it's not always so obvious.

To keep that in mind in the collective memory of the Church is very important for each one of us, because otherwise we think only about other aspects of the Gospel. But it requires the total commitment of our whole life to say, "I love you Jesus." It means also to follow Him where he leads us the way we wouldn't go with our natural instincts. That's part of Christian life.

The sisters, especially those martyrs in Yemen, have taught me the same reality. It was for myself a challenge, to think that maybe one day you could be led in a similar situation, and would need to ask the Lord to give me the strength, or give us the strength, not to run away, but to be there faithfully, even when it is at the bottom of the Cross in Golgotha, and that the sisters have taught me that.

Listen to our full interview with Bishop Paul Hinder:

Thank you for reading our article. You can keep up-to-date by subscribing to our daily newsletter. Just click here

05 July 2023, 14:29