Sunday, July 02, 2006

They died because they loved us (Five American Nuns)

During the Liberian Civil War in 1992, the missionaries who chose to stay with their people knew that they are putting themselves in great danger. Among those missionaries were the five American missionary nuns from the Adorers of the Precious Blood congregation. The five nuns enjoyed a good relationship with the people of Gardnersville. They ran a school and a clinic in service to the people. For months it had been clear that the deteriorating situation posed grave danger to the nuns, for that matter to anyone in the way of the shelling and the vicious hand-to-hand combat that distinguished Taylor's westward advance. The sisters resolved to stay in order to serve the people who had nowhere to go, fully conscious of the danger. Sr. Agnes Muller, one of the five nuns, said, “That's where God is. Right there, in that struggle, in that hassle.”

On the night of October 20, 1992, a security guard from the convent said he was worried about his family. Two of the sisters, Barbara Ann Muttra and Joel Kolmer, agreed to drive him home. On their journey, they picked up two stranded soldiers. While they were driving along, shots rang out and killed the passengers of the car, including the two nuns.

When the two nuns did not return to the convent, the others feared the worst, but the fighting prevented a search party from going out. Besides, they had to look for the aspirants and the refugees in the convent.

On the afternoon of October 22, soldiers from Charles Taylor’s troops entered the convent and took the black refugees away from the convent. They told the blacks that they are going to kill the whites. The nuns pleaded for their lives but were ignored. The soldiers demanded the keys to the car that remained at the convent. Sr. Kathleen McGuire handed them over and was shot. The soldiers then demanded money from the other two sisters. Informed that there were no U.S. dollars at the convent, the soldiers shot Srs. Agnes Mueller and Shirley Kolmer, killing both of them.

To date no one has been brought to justice in the killings of the five nuns. But their presence in Liberia lives on. In the villages where the nuns served, girls under the age of 2 today are likely to answer to Agnes, Barbara, Joel, Kathleen, or Shirley.

“These five angels of peace came to our country to minister to our people, to heal our wounds, to educate our people, and to bring to our people a fuller, fruitful and spiritual life,” wrote Archbishop Michael Francis of Monrovia in 1993. “They died because they loved us.”


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