ASIA/LEBANON – The Muslim community prays for a Catholic nun who died at Christmas

ASIA/LEBANON – The Muslim community prays for a Catholic nun who died at Christmas

Photo by Youssef S. Rouphael

Hermel (Agenzia Fides) – During her long life “she sowed good wherever she went”. For this reason, even Shia Muslims in the Lebanese town of Hermel in the Beka’a Valley wanted to say a prayer for Sister Barbara of Jesus, the 90-year-old Catholic nun of the Little Sisters of Jesus who died on Christmas Eve. They invited the entire population of the country to a funeral ceremony, organized on the evening of Sunday January 2 in the condolence room of the mosque dedicated to Imam Zayn al-Abidin, in the district of al Harah. In the message calling for the suffrage offer, gratitude was expressed for the love with which Sister Barbara “sowed good things wherever she went”. “All the people of Hermel miss you as an example of piety, charity and purity,” reads a banner hoisted at the entrance to the mosque area to express gratitude to Sister Barbara and entrust her soul to “the great mercy of God”.
At the funeral, eyewitnesses reported, “Sister Barbara’s sisters received condolences from high-ranking members of the local community. The mayor expressed his gratitude for the presence of the sisters in the region, recalling that their discreet work accompanied him throughout his life, since he was a child. For the soul of Sister Barbara, the many Muslims who attended the ceremony recited Al-Fātiḥa, the “merciful and gracious” God who constitutes the first surah of the Koran. All those present were offered the traditional unsweetened coffee, as is customary when expressing condolences in Lebanese Christian and Muslim communities.
The funeral ceremony organized by the Shia Muslim community of Hermel to pray for the late Sister Barbara also showed once again the fruits of the unique and silent apostolic work carried out by so many nuns in the daily life of the people of the Middle East. .
Sister Barbara Kassab, originally from Egypt, has spent her whole life doing good to her Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters in a country that has been bruised and sometimes torn by numerous internal conflicts. “Great sadness on earth and great joy in heaven following the death of Sister Barbara”, we read in the funeral announcement with which the Christians of the region announced their death. It was recalled that Sister Barbara “devoted her life to work in the Church, to social works at the service of the community and especially of the poor of the region”. Gratitude was expressed for the presence of Barbara and her sisters who offered comfort and consolation to all “in our difficult days”, and represent “a shining sign in our world shrouded in darkness. Her soul – adds the message – will be a Christmas present for the Child of Bethlehem. Go in peace, virtuous mother and sister, and may your soul help us, our families, our society and our whole region”.
Before opening a community in Hermel, the Congregation of the Little Sisters of Jesus, founded by Sister Magdeleine Hutin on the model of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, had settled in the village of Ras Baalbek, mainly inhabited by Christians. During the years of conflict in Lebanon, this house was a place of refuge for boys and girls from the region under the sign of peace and harmonious coexistence. On the land adjoining the small monastery of Hermel, the sisters cultivate olive trees, vines, legumes and fruit trees. In 2017, when jihadist militiamen from devastated Syria invaded the Bekaa Valley, the mayor immediately took the little sisters and placed them under his protection. Muslim neighbors watched over the monastery, awaiting their return. And when they came back, they asked them not to go back. In this way, they continued to fulfill their missionary and contemplative vocation and, through their daily actions, bear witness to signs of the presence and love of Jesus among Muslims. (PR-GV) (Agenzia Fides, 1/3/2022)


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