Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا

Published on Monday, 1 November 2021

Christian clergy turn darkness into bright light

By Munir Bayouk/ : :

Over the past centuries clergymen and clergywomen have been well-known for  striving to alleviate suffering  and to open windows of opportunities for depressed people by creating  a bright future and turning bleakness into brightness.


History abounds with events that provide cogent evidence of this fact where Christian clergy played a  key role in resuscitating  decrepit societies and in restoring normalcy with hopes for better days to come.


Among the recent events is the graduation of the first batch of the students enrolled in the Catholic University of Erbil which has served as "a wonderful forum for culture, education and dialogue," according to Chaldean Patriarch, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako.


 In his address at the recent graduation ceremony, Cardinal Sako said, "The Catholic Church has distinguished itself since the first centuries of its founding for its cultural and social institutions, namely schools, universities, charities for the poor, hospitals and charitable clinics."


The university first opened its doors at the end of 2015, when much of Iraq was under threat from the Islamic State (ISIS) militants. The university was founded in 2012 with support from the Italian Episcopal Conference with a target to offers an environment of tolerance and academic excellence  while promoting quality, dignity, and justice with a particular focus on forming the next generation of leaders to serve local societies.


The Catholic University of Erbil has contributed to helping survivors of ISIS rebuild  a bright future with hopes for a better life. This university was set out to help people in northern Iraq who belong to several religious minorities and ethnic groups--especially those  who have been targeted by ISIS militants--to reintegrate within their communities, and to begin the process of restoring the once-rich tapestry of millennia-old cultures that make the area unique.


Another relevant modern model, is the outstanding role played by Sister Clara Nas which was designed to restore hope for the future of children.


Reviewing the events that took place in the city of Qaraqosh, in August 2014, this city fell into the hands of ISIS. The city, located on the Nineveh Plain, was once the largest Christian city in the country as Christians living in this region of Iraq were forced to flee from their homes for safety thus rendering thousands of them homeless.


After Qaraqosh was liberated by the Iraqi army in 2016, the Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of Saint Catherine of Siena--an order that has been active in the region since 1890--were among the first to return after the liberation of the city. They did not hesitate to start working on rebuilding of the community at a time when their return encouraged Christians to come back to their homes and revive the Christian community there.


Sister Clara Nas, the prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena, had barely returned to Qaraqosh in 2016 when she had the idea of building a new secondary school. Sister Clara insisted to fulfill her wish. She said, “Our goal was to offer young people a place of reconciliation and healing after being displaced by ISIS and living for so many years as refugees.”


In 2018, she sought the needed support to undertake the project of building a new secondary school. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and Austria promised to help. The people of Qaraqosh received the news that a new secondary school was going to be built with great jubilation, because one of the main concerns of those who had returned or were planning to return was the education of their children. With the opening of the secondary school on October 1, 2021, it is expected to accommodate 625 pupils between the ages of 13 and 18.


 The opening of the school helps revive societies as well as creates room for progress and prosperity whereas  education illuminates the mind and opens the hearts to the truth. This school strengthened the educational system in the region and  helped fight unemployment by offering jobs for teachers and other school staff.


Many thanks go  to ACN which has been involved in several projects on the Nineveh Plain, with a particular focus on the rebuilding of Qaraqosh and giving the needed assistance to  Christian families they need to return to their homes.