The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena have had a long, tumultuous history in Iraq, and now as many Iraqi Christians are fleeing the region, their role there has become even more important. Along with continuing their service work in the community, they are seen as a symbol of hope and resistance in an area full of violence. The mission of the sisters is to serve all Iraqis equally, no matter their religion.
According to the Order of Preachers, the first Dominican priest visited Iraq in 1235, and in 1873, six French Dominican sisters set up a convent there. They've remained ever since--during World War I, when Christians were persecuted under Turks and their Kurdish allies, and after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, when killing and looting became commonplace. Through it all, the sisters have not stopped serving the people
They have set up schools, hospitals, urgent care centers, and maternity wards, and even trained nurses to work in the government health sector. While some of these buildings have been forced to close, others remain open despite constant bombing and ransacking.
Sister Maryanne Pierre, the manager of St. Raphael Hospital in Baghdad, said in an interview with CBS News, "This is my job to stay here to help people. ... It's our duty to stay here for all the people."