By Paul Dobbyn
NEWS of the release of two religious sisters and three orphans being held by Islamic militants in Mosul has been greeted with joy by many including Brisbane priest Fr Gerry Hefferan.
He said prayers of thanksgiving would now be added to prayers of supplication for the beleaguered Catholic communities of Iraq in Bracken Ridge parish’s prayer vigil on Sunday, August 3, which starts with an ecumenical service at 3pm.
The two Chaldean nuns – Sisters Atur and Miskinta – from the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate ran Mosul’s foster home for orphans.
Mosul Archbishop Amel Nona said the group of five, arrested by Islamic State militants on June 28, had been released unharmed and that no ransom had been paid.
The nuns and all of the foster home’s residents fled Mosul following the offensive launched by Sunni rebels led by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants on June 9. The group sought refuge in the city of Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan. Sister Atur made quick visits to Mosul to check on the house and retrieve some of the girls’ belongings and work and study kits.
The two nuns disappeared on June 28 along with three of the young orphans who accompanied them on one of these brief visits to Mosul.
Church authorities contacted religious leaders of Mosul’s Sunni community immediately, to keep the situation under control and ensure that the individuals who had been stopped by ISIS’s militants were granted complete freedom of movement.
Fr Hefferan said a report he had read indicated that Archbishop Nona had managed to contact the nuns by phone on July 13 and that they had already returned to Dohuk.
“It’s truly wonderful news and an answer to the prayers of many,” he said.