Iraq's Christians were set to pass a mpmentous milestone May 1 on the way towards recovery from genocide, when a community of Sisters officially open their long-awaited school.
With capacity for 625 students, Al-Tahira Secondary School is located in Qaraqosh (Baghdeda), the largest of the 13 majority Christian towns and villages on the iconic Nineveh Plains.
Unlike most structural projects which involve restoring buildings damaged by ISIS during its occupation of the Nineveh Plains, the coed school has been built from scratch in what was the playground of Al-Tahira Primary School, which was also run by the Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena.
Al-Tahira Secondary School, which admitted its first students in February, comprises state-of-the-art facilities spread over three floors, including three science laboratories, a computer center, a large conference hall, library and chapel.
Five years in the making, the school is one of the single biggest projects in Iraq supported by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, the executive president of ACN International, who will be participating in the opening ceremony along with other CAN staff from the charity, said: “ACN was involved right from the start of the initiative, and it has been a privilege to work with so many committed individuals and organizations to bring this project to fruition, including the Austrian bishops’ conference, supported by the Austrian government.”
ACN was involved in securing more than 80 percent of the US$2.1 million needed to build the school.
Thanking benefactors for their tireless support for Iraq, he went on: “I would like to pay tribute to Sister Clara Nas, the other Dominican Sisters and all those who have worked tirelessly to make this dream a reality.”
He added: “Back in the darkest days of the ISIS occupation of the region, who would have thought that just a few years later we would be celebrating the opening of a brand-new school?”
Showing an ACN delegation around the school last month, Dominican Sister Huda said the school is about helping to secure a future for Christians in a country where the community’s numbers have fallen from more than one million before 2003 to perhaps 150,000 today.
She said: “We are building the character of the students to be leaders in society, taking responsibility and developing a plan to remain in this country. The presence of the Sisters here, the presence of the school here are both signs of hope, giving people a reason to stay.”
Student Rameel Rabu Wadi, aged 16, told ACN: “With buildings like this and a chance to study well, we feel we have a big future here. Thank you so much for supporting us.”