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Yemen’s Missionaries of Charity: The Nuns Killed by Islamic State Jihadists

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The four nuns running a nursing home in Aden, Yemen, killed by the Islamic State earlier this month, belonged to the Missionaries of Charity, established by Blessed Mother Teresa.

The Islamic State attacked the center, described as “the only Christian presence in the region,” killing four nuns and abducting Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who also worked at the facility, in mid-March. The jihadists tied the nuns up, shot them, and “smashed their heads,” according to reports. Father Uzhunnalil’s whereabouts are unknown, though reports have surfaced that he may have been crucified on Good Friday.

The gunmen executed Sister Anselm from India. Formerly Cecilia Minj, she left her home in India 40 years ago at 40 years of age to join the Missionaries of Charity. Her brother Vincent, who became an evangelist, could not “escape the irony” of her death. She joined the charity after she fell in a well.

“I thought that if God had given her another life, it had to be used in His service. So I just took her along with me and got her admitted to the Missionaries of Charity,” he explained.

Vincent told their father he needed to take Cecilia to Ranchi for school. He did not “protest much later” when he found out Vincent took her to become a nun.

They last saw her in 2010. Vincent said she helped the villagers during her time there.

“She was helping the poor and old and the downtrodden all through her life,” he continued. “That was why Sister Anselm left home as a 20-yr-old, all the family may get of the nun is a ‘blood-stained cloth’ I had given her to the Mission. What more do I say? As you know, once one has joined the Mission, family does not mean anything.”

Sister Judith from Kenya also lost her life that day. She grew up as Anastasia Kanini in poverty in Kenya. Local outlets reported that she “committed most of her adult life to Christ.” Her family once kicked her out of the house because she refused “to visit witch doctors” in an attempt “to lift them out of their poverty.”

“This was a girl who did not entertain superstitions,” said her uncle Joseph Maswili.

She joined the Missionaries of Charity in 2002.

“She grew up a disciplined and God-fearing girl, who attended Sunday School without fail,” described her mother, Agnes Kasangi.

Sister Marguerite and Sister Reginette joined the charity from Rwanda. Local media has not reported much on their past lives, but Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege of the Catholic Diocese of Kabgayi promised the community will remember them as martyrs.

“We deeply regret their deaths but stay proud for their sacrifice that resulted in deaths. We consider them martyrs and they are,” he announced after they found out about the massacre.

The gunmen also killed twelve other people, volunteers from parts of Africa. Authorities found all their bodies handcuffed and shot in the head. They did not target any residents in the home.

Conflicting reports came out on Easter Sunday that the Islamic State crucified the priest in charge of the retirement home. Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, said he could confirm the death of Father Tom Uzhunnalil. However, Catholic News Agency said his friends, family, or community have not confirmed his death.


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