Somalia: Nun forgave Muslim killers as she lay dying


Sister Leonella, a nun who devoted her life to helping the sick in volatile regions of Africa, used to joke that there was a bullet with her name engraved on it in Somalia. When the bullet came, she used her last breaths to forgive those responsible. "I forgive, I forgive," she whispered in her native Italian just before she died, the Rev. Malaga Wesson told The Associated Press at the nun's memorial mass in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, today. Sister Leone's execution-style murder over the weekend has raised concerns that she and other foreigners who have been killed in Somalia recently are victims of growing Islamic radicalism in the country. Her killing was not a random attack and could have been sparked by remarks by Pope Benedict XVI about Muslims that have sparked angry reaction from Muslims around the world, added Willy Huber, regional head of the Austrian-funded hospital where Sister Leonella worked. The killing has once again turned the spotlight on the lawless Horn of Africa nation where a powerful, radical Islamic group, accused of having ties to al Qaida, have all but wrested control of the country from the weak and factional Somali government. Sister Leonella, whose birth name was Rosa Sgorbati, had lived and worked in Kenya and Somalia for 38 years, her family said. She was shot as she left the Austrian-run S.O.S. hospital on Sunday. Her bodyguard also was slain. The two had been walking the 30 feet from the Mogadishu hospital to the sister's home, where three other nuns were waiting to have lunch with her. "She had no chance," Huber added. "It was like an execution." Sister Leonella was aware of the dangers in Somalia and used to joke that there was a bullet with her name engraved on it. "But this never deterred her or discouraged her," said Wesonga, who is secretary of the archdiocese of Nairobi. In Mogadishu, Halima Hassan said Sister Leonella was a "kind person who loved mothers and children. We have lost a great person". She added she hoped the killing would not lead to curtailed aid to Somalia. 9/19/2006

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