The ambassador of Peru in Egypt, José Guillermo Betancourt, reported that the religious missionaries of the Family of the Incarnate Word, María del Pilar and María del Perpetuo Socorro Llerena Vargas, have decided to stay in Gaza to help victims in the conflict zone.
In a statement to the program Ampliación de Noticias, Betancourt indicated that the Peruvian twin sisters have rejected the rescue proposal in order to continue with their religious duty and serve the “community of 559 people, [and] among them there are the sick, injured, elderly and disabled.”
“Both of them have just told us that there is a change in their opinion and they have decided to stay. They consider that their religious duty, their vocation of apostolate, is to remain in the Gaza Strip and they no longer wish to be evacuated to Egypt," said the ambassador.
“It is the duty of their religious faith that we admire,” he added.
Betancourt indicated that the nuns are currently in the northern Gaza Strip, one of the most troubled areas and far from Egypt's border.
This Oct. 24, international media confirmed that the Israeli Army has intensified bombing in the northern area of the Strip in the fight against the Islamist group Hamas.
This attack will increase the official list of deaths, which, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, already has more than 5,000 dead and more than 15,000 injured. Among them, more than 62 percent of the fatalities are women and children.
The ambassador highlighted that the nuns have reevaluated their decision and consider “that their duty is to be there, helping Christian families and assisting the wounded.”
“We are without electricity or drinking water”
Sister María del Pilar indicated in an audio sent to Voz Católica that the current difficult situation the community faces is the shortage of basic resources.
“Yesterday afternoon, we attended the funeral of 18 Christians who died as a result of an Israeli bombardment, which caused the house to give way, collapsing on them.
"It was very sad and painful to see the children say goodbye to their parents, and even more painful to see the parents say goodbye to their children, some of them, to say goodbye to all of them, all of their children.
"It was an image that would be very difficult to erase. Some of those children attended different activities in our parish. They were well-known families and very close to us,” the sister said.
“Here at Holy Family Parish, we received the slightly injured for treatment. Later, many of those who took refuge in the Orthodox church took refuge here.
"We are almost 700 faithful, among whom are the sisters of Mother Teresa, with 50 disabled children, the sisters of our Lady of the Rosary, Father Joseph Aimad, and us, of the Incarnate Word."
“The elderly, the sick, children, we all serve,” she added.
“Currently we are without electricity and without drinking water, we are using water from the well, which we do not know how long it will last, and mineral water, which we had to buy at triple the original price to be able to drink.
"We very charitably seek to ensure that everyone receives what they need in the best possible way.
"In this parish, we have Mass twice a day and we are constantly praying the rosary, asking the Virgin and God for that peace that we long for. We ask that you join our prayers so that God in his mercy grants it to us, since only He can do this great miracle. Greetings to all,” she concluded.
A call to religious life
Lucía and Mónica Llerena Vargas were born in Arequipa (Peru). They are part of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, an institute that belongs to the Family of the Incarnate Word, where they took the names María del Pilar and María del Perpetuo Socorro.
In a 2021 publication, Sister María del Pilar indicated that since when she was a child, she "thought about being a nun, imagining the different colors of habit that I would wear, but in my adolescence and with my entry into the parish group, that desire began to cool, as I was calm since I dedicated a lot of time to the service of God and others with my companions.”
“At the age of 24, on Christmas night, I was praying and about to fall asleep. God called me to such a degree and in such a way that at that moment, I consecrated my life to God and I promised Him that I would belong to Him and I would not marry anyone," the sister said. "There was so much joy and love that I felt that I cried with joy. It is something I will never forget."
On February 11, 1993, María del Pilar entered religious life and just a year later, her twin sister would also give her life to God.
“For me, it was a great joy, my twin, we have the same blood, the same last name, we shared many things as children, and now, the same life as missionaries, the same Religious Family, the same spirituality!” she highlighted.