Iraqi Catholics Answer Violence With New School

Archbishop Affirms Excellence of Education

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By Genevieve Pollock

MOSUL, Iraq, MARCH 22, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Faced to ongoing violence against Christians in Iraq, the archbishop of Mosul of the Chaldeans is building a new school as a sign of hope for the people.

Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona, 42, who was installed as head of the Mosul Archeparchy in January, stated his plans in a letter last month.

“The murder and persecution of Catholics in Iraq, particularly in the cathedral city of my diocese, Mosul, has lead to a social and spiritual crisis,” he affirmed.

The prelate continued: “I minister to the needs of a displaced and demoralized people.

“Many Catholics have lost their lives. Thousands have lost their homes, their livelihoods, and the comfort of a close family, as they have been forced to flee and seek refuge elsewhere.

“Those who remain are living in fear.”

He pointed to the “hope,” which he took as the motto of his bishopric, “the hope that with the strength and grace that come to us continuously through our Lord Jesus Christ, the Chaldean Catholic Community, and all communities of the Church of the East will thrive once again.”

Rebuilding

“As a diocese, and a community, we need to rebuild everything,” the archbishop said.

This process of rebuilding will begin with a new school, he affirmed, in “the ancient Chaldean Catholic village of Karmless.”

This village, he explained “is located in a secure area of the diocese, and is overflowing with internally displaced Catholics who have taken refuge there.”

Archbishop Nona sent out an appeal for aid “to build this new diocesan school, named after our patron, Mar Adday.”

He noted that ground-breaking for the school will take place in January, and that it plans to “welcome students of all faiths, Christians, Muslims, and Yazidis, from Karmless and surrounding areas” in Fall 2011.

The prelate expressed the hope that this project will help the people by creating more jobs, but also by giving Catholics “an opportunity to do something at which we excel.”

Contributions

“Education has been a charism of our Church since its founding,” he pointed out. “In 350 AD, in the city of Nisibis, our direct ancestors founded the world’s first university.”

“Since then,” the archbishop noted, “we have established hundreds of schools, and universities, and have been recognized for our significant contributions to Iraqi culture and society.”

“In the midst of this present war and its after effects, we have two successful, self-sustaining schools in Baghdad,” he said.

“Both schools have enrollments that are at least 60% Muslim, and both are profoundly Catholic in their identity, even as they serve the much larger Islamic majority,” Archbishop Nona reported.

He underlined the “obligation to provide a Catholic education for our young, to teach the healing message of Christ, to inculcate virtues of charity, self-respect and respect for others.”

“We are a resilient community,” the prelate said, “and eager to thrive here in Iraq.”

He sent an appeal for aid to “fulfill our hope” through “Our Blessed Mother, Comforter of the Afflicted, and Queen of Peace.”

Survival

Hank and Diane McCormick, a missionary couple working in Northern Iraq to help Middle Eastern Christians, told ZENIT that “the Iraqi Catholic community is diminishing, and needs immediate help to survive.”

They explained that “the local bishops and priests have concentrated on the immediate need for schools as the best means of supporting the community for very practical reasons: A complete staff is available to operate the schools; the schools will provide immediate employment; once built, they will be self-supporting; and they are welcoming to other religious communities, Muslims included.”

Archbishop Nona, whose predecessor was kidnapped and killed in 2008, said if the situation does not improve, the ancient Christian community will disappear.

Nonetheless, shortly after he was installed as head of the Mosul Archdiocese, he affirmed, “My new mission is to provide hope and confidence to the Christians in Mosul, making them aware of the presence of a father and a minister beside them in their present plight.”

The prelate said: “The only thing that the faithful are still adhering to is the Church.

“For this reason, the Church, represented in the person of the bishop, has to care for its followers and help them feel secure through its presence in them and among them.”

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On the Net:

Mar Adday school project: www.charityandjustice.org

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