Sister Hatune Dogan visits a slum city in India.
It is the season of “peace on Earth,” but Sister Hatune Dogan has a chill in her spirit that could only be felt in a time of war.
The Orthodox Christian nun feels it with each new atrocity committed against the Yazidi and Christian minorities of Syria and Iraq. She feels it in the church burnings across Egypt and the slaughter of innocent children in Pakistan.
For this reason she brought a word of warning to Americans in a visit last week to Minnesota, where she spoke to several church groups.
Today’s political climate draws her back to 1915 and her native Turkey, when her family experienced the cruelty of the Ottoman caliphate, which slaughtered 3 million Christians and reduced others to second-class status under subjugation or “dhimmitude.”
ISIS is nothing new, she said, just the re-emergence of Islam’s dark side.
“ISIS is not fanatic. ISIS is not more terrible. ISIS is real Muslim believers who like to follow the Quran and Mohammad,” said the founder of Warburg, Germany-based Sister Hatune Foundation, a worldwide relief organization that has been honored by the German government for its dedication to human rights. “Others say they are Muslim. They say they believe Quran, but they don’t follow it.”
Armenian Christians accounted for about half of the 3 million victims in Turkey, but the other half were Christians of various ethnic backgrounds – Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and protestants. All felt the boot of jihad against their heads.
Sister Hatune arrived last Thursday at the Atlanta airport for a stopover on her way back to Germany. She was dressed in traditional black garments and a habit covering her hair. She wore a simple wooden crucifix around her neck and carried with her a well-worn copy of the Quran, which has become her constant companion wherever she goes to teach about the current situation in the Middle East.
She believes Christians in the West should learn what is written in the Muslim holy book. If they did, they would realize that the Islamic State, also called ISIS, is not doing anything that hasn’t been done in the past by devout Muslims who have conquered a people they see as “infidels.”
Where are all the Christians?
Sister Hatune points to the fact that 96 percent of the people who populated the Middle East at the turn of the 8th century were Christian. Now, that Christian population has dwindled to 6 percent. Turkey was once almost all Christian, but now it is 0.03 percent Christian. Iraq had 1 million Christians under Saddam Hussein, but now only a few thousand remain and the churches of Baghdad will be mostly empty this Christmas.
“Where are these Christians? Where are these people? Just ask yourself,” says the fiery nun, whose native tongue is Aramaic. Her family initially lived in Turkey as Jews but later her entire village converted to Christianity.
Born in 1970 the middle daughter of 10 children, Sister Hatune learned to speak 13 languages, but none make her more proud than Aramaic.
“This is the language of Jesus,” she told WND.
The Sister Hatune Foundation works in 35 countries with Matthew [25:34]-40 as its mission statement – feeding, clothing, sheltering and providing medical care to the poor and persecuted of the world. She has been making regular trips to the Middle East since 2005, and ISIS presents a new challenge — trying to rescue orphaned children from the clutches of the Islamic State.
Sister Hatune returned to her home convent in Germany for only a few days before she will make another trip to the Middle East to celebrate Christmas with the persecuted Christians. She was with them in November when she visited refugee camps in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. She also sneaked into Syria to meet with Christians there.
“They need your support. Without your support they can’t continue,” she says in one video showing her with a group of Yazidi refugees. “They live like animal. Starving. No food. Unsanitary. No one should have to live like this.”
It’s a plight she is all too familiar with. Her question, “What happened to all the Christians?” is purely rhetorical, and completely personal. Her family lived through the genocide of 1915 in Turkey, the country from which her parents fled in 1985, when she was 14.
Her great-aunt Sarah lived through the persecution in Zaz, a small village in southeastern Turkey, in 1915.
“She was 18 years old, very beautiful. One of the Muslim men saw her and said ‘she is beautiful. She belongs to me,’” Sister Hatune said.
Sarah had four brothers, a mother and father, several cousins, aunts and uncles living in the village.
“Twelve in all, in October 1915, they killed in front of her eyes,” Sister Hatune said, motioning with her hands and speaking in a thick accent. “Shot them in front of her eyes.”
This operation was carried out by Islamic fanatics, both Turks and Kurds, with the blessing of the Turkish army. “It was planned,” she said.
In all, 365 members of her family’s church, St. Demetrios in Zaz, were murdered, representing about half of the village’s population.
“First they shot them. More than half were still alive so they burned them alive in the church in 1915 in my village,” she said.
Her great-grandmother had two children and was forced in 1921 to beg her Muslim masters to let her keep one of them and raise him as a Christian.
It is the same experience playing out today under ISIS in Iraq and Syria. “The most beautiful ones they take for their wives and say ‘now you have to be Muslim,’” said Sister Hatune.
The others are forced to convert or die. Many have been slaughtered in front of their parents. She has one video smuggled out of Iraq that shows three young boys, around 5 or 6 years old, being psychologically tormented by their eventual killer.
“Tell me which one should I cut first,” the man asks them in Arabic. A long butcher knife sits on a table beside him.
“Come put your head here,” he says, as the boys scream in terror. They take a step back but the confines of the small room leave nowhere to run.
When neither boy steps forward to volunteer his neck, the man yells “come all of you. Come all of you!”
He grabs one of the boys. The one in the white shirt. The boys screams and the other two cry.
“Are you ISIS?” the man yells over the screaming boy. “Are you ISIS?”
“No,” the boy answers, sobbing uncontrollably.
All three were beheaded. The nun said she received the video from a relative of the three boys.
In another video, shot in 2013, three Christian priests are shown being led out into a field with their hands bound. A Muslim man wrestles one priest to the ground, and slices his head off while several hundred Muslims yell “Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!”
Written by LEO HOHMANN
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