MWI: In March 2014 you went back to your home country Iraq. What was the situation like there?
Sister Nazek: When I arrived in Iraq, I was really happy to be reunited with my Dominican Sisters and my family. The conditions were not settled, yet I was hoping, like other Iraqi Christians, that they would improve. In few weeks I was asked to teach Introduction to the New Testament at a Catholic Centre in Qaraqosh/Nineveh (about 30 km from Mosul); also, I was offered to teach as a lecturer at Babel College (a Catholic college based in Ankawa/Erbil) for the academic year 2014-2015. I was glad that things were going as I had hoped.
But then everything turned out completely different.
Summer came in Iraq with wicked winds that disturbed everything and made us all reconsider what we had planned. The ISIS entered Mosul and captured it on the 9th of June, and then we had to face a new reality realizing that our presence in Iraq as Christians was openly and rigorously threatened. Yet, we remained in our towns in the Plain of Nineveh, with the rest of our Christian people hoping that we would be safe, especially after the Kurdish government promised us that they would protect us and would not let the ISIS enter our Christian towns. We believed them.
But then the ISIS entered Qaraqosh on the 6th of August. We had to leave the town immediately taking with us as little as we could, for there was not enough space in the cars; we left the convent at 11:30 pm. It was a real exodus! The town was empty over night! The streets were crowded and we only arrived in Ankawa/Erbil the next day – it took us 9 hours to get to Erbil. Usually, it takes 1 hour. My Dominican Sisters and I were distributed on refugee camps helping people.
I went with another sister to work at a school where 70 families were placed. Suddenly, I found myself responsible for providing food, bedding, and clothing for people whose demands were increasing day after day. I was thinking all the time how Jesus could provide food for thousands of people in the wilderness. I realized that our Christian community was really living biblical times. People were hungry, scattered, weak and humiliated - we badly needed the Saviour!
How did it go on? Could you manage to realise some of your projects despite the attacks?
On the 7th of October, I started teaching at Babel College. I was offering two courses: Introduction to the Bible, and Introduction to Historical Books. Also, I was asked to teach Introduction to the New Testament at the institute affiliated with the college. It was not easy at all to switch from working at the refugee camp to lecturing at the college. I felt that I was being cut in two. On the one hand, I had to teach at a level of people who are hungry to know about the word of God. So I had to search and prepare my classes as if I were not a refugee myself. What made it worse was the fact that I left all my books, as I could not carry them with me the night of our exodus.
On the one hand I stood in front of my students talking to them about the Bible and how people wrote their history, while on the other hand I was asking God everyday: "Why have you forsaken us?"
But I felt that it was a time of grace, too. We came face to face with God, when we felt completely empty and we prayed for Him to help us understand His will.
At this moment, I feel I am between two completely different communities. A displaced community that badly needs to understand the will of God in all that is happening, and a second community that is hungry to know about the Word of God and how to understand it. I pray that the Lord may enable me to be a bridge between these two Christian communities.
May God protect you and your fellows in Iraq. Thank you for your answers.