PEOPLE
Volume 18 Number 2
After the Suicide Bomb
01 April 2005

Seventeen military personnel and two civilians were killed. Most families of the victims added bitterness to their grief, but not 34-year-old Margherita Coletta from Avola in Sicily, who has lived out her Christian faith in a remarkable way.

ON 12 Nov 2003 a lorry loaded with explosives and driven by a suicide bomber blasted the Nasiriyah outpost of the Italian contingent in Iraq. Seventeen military personnel and two civilians were killed.

Local dignitaries in Iraq immediately expressed their condolences and their disapproval of the attack. Ordinary people in Italy were horrified by the attack on troops who had combined peace-keeping with responding to the most urgent needs of the population.

Most families of the victims added bitterness to their grief, but not 34-year-old Margherita Coletta from Avola in Sicily, who has lived out her Christian faith in a remarkable way. Her husband, Guiseppe Coletta, was a vicesergeant in the military police. When she was interviewed on national television right after the massacre, she picked up a Bible and read out the sentence, ‘Love your enemy’.

‘Yes, even when he has taken away your heart and your breath,’ she commented to a journalist from Avvenire, who reminded her of her statement a year after Guiseppe’s death. ‘Guiseppe was the rock on which I rested. We had faced together the death of our child Paolo, who had leukaemia. They say the death of your child is the biggest blow; it is not true: that time being two of us it was easier.’


In their 20 years of marriage they had shared a passion to help people, especially children. When Guiseppe was serving in Bosnia, he used the Carabinieri’s heavy duty lorries to deliver food, toys and medicines, which she had helped him collect in Italy.

When he died his colleagues and friends encouraged Margherita to carry on, and suggested she establish an association. She felt too small; yet she sensed that it was not up to her, but to God to decide, and that if he wanted, it would happen. The general staff of the Carabinieri helped her to find her way through the tangle of red tape and the association was founded, with the name ‘Guiseppe and Margherita Coletta— Knock and it shall be opened to you’.

Money and commodities immediately started pouring in, but also requests for help. The first was for an Albanian child who was brought to Italy for an operation. Then they helped a lady in Siracusa, whose son needed an operation. Future plans include helping some nuns from Naples who need desks and chairs for their school in Albania and building a bakery in a village near the school.

Anybody can knock at the door, they will always receive an answer. The main criterion is that every project should not only have a beginning but also a definite conclusion. Ask Margherita where she will find the funds and she answers: ‘God will provide’—but she likes to think that Guiseppe is beside him, giving him a hand.
Adriano Costa



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