Sister Diana Momeka, the Iraqi nun who was blocked from entering the U.S. last week and admitted after public pressure forced the government to allow her entry, said the killing of Christians by ISIS in Iraq will destroy commonality between the eastern and western world, during a speech at a congressional hearing on Wednesday.
"This is cultural and human genocide," she said, adding that the eradication of the Christian community has "placed the whole region on the edge of a terrible catastrophe. Christians have for centuries been the bridge that connects Eastern and Western cultures. Destroying this bridge will leave an isolated, inculturated conflict zone emptied of cultural and religious diversity," said Momeka.
Sister Diana, who belongs to the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine, is using her trip to urge the U.S. congress to do more to help Iraqi Christians displaced from their homes. Momeka along with 50,000 other residents were driven out of Qaraqosh in northern Iraq by ISIS during August of 2014.
"We want nothing more than to go back to our lives; we want nothing more than to go home," said Momeka to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
She explained to Congress that ISIS told Christians they either had to convert to Islam, pay a tribute to ISIS or leave with "nothing more than the clothes on their back."
When she was forced out of her convent, she left with just her purse and passport.
Momeka said the first step toward getting Iraqi Christians back into their homes is freeing the region from ISIS control followed by a major rebuilding effort which includes reconstructing roads, churches and monasteries. She also added that religious minorities forced out of the region will need psychological help.
"We don't have strong programs," she said while discussing a Yazidi woman who came to the sisters for help who had been repeatedly raped by ISIS members and suffered burns. "She can't control herself when she tells her story."
And despite strong opposition from radical Islamists, Sister Diana assured listeners that the conflict in Iraq hasn't shaken their faith.
"We were displaced yet the hand of God is still with us," she said. "In the midst of darkness we see God holding us."
Momeka, who is now giving the U.S. Congress a firsthand account of the atrocities being committed in Iraq, was initially denied entry into the U.S., which caused an uproar among Christians and conservatives.
Both the State Department and consulate were skeptical of her visit and denied her a visa, even with endorsements from U.S. Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-California, Frank Wolf, R-Virginia., and The Cradle Fund, an organization to aid persecuted Christians in the Middle East found by Hollywood producer Mark Burnett.
The organizations were concerned that Momeka would attempt to stay in the country illegally after her allotted time had expired and therefore denied her entry.
Under pressure from outside parties, the State Department caved and reversed the decision earlier this week allowing Momeka to come to the U.S. Her trip was sponsored in part by groups the Institute for Global Engagement and the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.