Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd is among Christian leaders decrying the murder of four nuns and 12 others at a retirement home established by the late Mother Teresa in war-torn Yemen.
“It was with great sadness that I learned of the horrific murder of four Catholic nuns – and 12 other innocent people – who had dedicated their lives to serving the poor in Yemen,” Floyd said. “There is a legitimate attempt at genocide against religious minorities in the Middle East and I call upon the United States government and other world leaders to respond more forcefully and immediately to protect these terribly endangered people.”
No organized group had claimed responsibility for the attack as of today, March 10. At least four gunmen entered the facility March 4 on the pretext of visiting their mothers, and moved from room to room, handcuffing victims and shooting them in the head as two other gunmen stood guard outside, it was widely reported.
Among those killed were four Missionaries of Charity nuns, four local nurses, four security guards, and three cleaning staff, Al Jazeera reported. Agenzia Fides, the Vatican news service, said the nuns included two from Rwanda, one from Kenya and another from India. Years earlier in July 1998, a gunman killed three nuns from the same order as they left a hospital in the city of Al Hudaydah.
In the latest attack, a priest identified as Indian native Tom Uzhunnalil was kidnapped and remained missing, Agenzia Fides said. Eighty residents lived in the home, and at least one nun survived the attack by hiding in a storeroom freezer, according to news reports.
Pope Francis called the victims martyrs and victims of “indifference, of this globalization of indifference, that does not care,” CNN reported. The Pope “prays that this pointless slaughter will awaken consciences, lead to a change of heart and inspire all parties to lay down their arms and take up the path of dialogue,” Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin was quoted.
Others speaking out against the massacre include representatives of the World Evangelical Alliance and the Believers Church of India, CNN reported.
In a statement days after the massacre, Al-Qaeda-linked militants Ansar al-Sharia denied any responsibility.
“Our honorable people of Aden, we Ansar al-Sharia deny any connection or relation to the operation that targeted the elders’ house,” CNN quoted the group. “This is not our operation and it’s not our way of fight.”
Yemen was the site of the December 2002 killing of three and the wounding of one, all Southern Baptist missionaries, when a lone gunman attacked the Jibla Baptist Hospital about 160 miles inland from the site of the Catholic retirement home.
Killed in 2002 were hospital administrator William E. Koehn, business manager Kathleen A. Gariety, and physician Martha C. Myers. Pharmacist Donald W. Caswell was injured. The gunman was suspected to have ties to Al-Qaeda.
Since Yemen erupted into civil war in March 2015, more than 6,000 people have been killed, 28,000 injured and 2.5 million internally displaced, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)