“Our beloved Christian community has so many reasons to leave Iraq today. This is why this university is a strong motive to stay. We all have a great responsibility to give them reasons to stay. I am therefore convinced that this university is a sign of hope," said Mgr Bashar Warda, Archbishop of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Since the Islamic State (IS) group seized Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, hundreds of thousands of people have fled to Iraqi Kurdistan. However, the foundation stone of the Catholic University in Erbil was laid in the fall of 2012, in Ankawa, a Christian town north of Erbil, on a three square km area provided by the Chaldean Church.
The decision to build the college stems from a desire to set up a place for scientific research. The university itself is open to anyone who wants to pursue higher education and training, including young refugees.
On 8th December, the solemnity of the Immaculate, Archbishop Warda and Mgr Nunzio Galantino, secretary general of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), took part in the official opening ceremony in the presence, among others, of Iraqi Kurdistan’s Education Minister Goran Yousif and Interior Minister Karim Sinjri. Mgr Galantino was in Erbil on a three-day visit.
The Italian Bishops allocated € 2.3 million (US$ 2.5 million) to the project. Today, students were able to visit the facility to find out more about the facility and its programmes. The first courses offered at the university will be in economics, computer science and Eastern languages and literature.
Plans are in the works for a faculty of law and international relations in a not too distant future. For Mgr Galantino, the school will lay "the foundation of a new history and a promising future" for the local community, which, after the violence and suffering of the last year and a half, is preparing to celebrate its second Christmas away from its homes and land.
The new Catholic educational facility in Erbil, not far from the refugee camps in Ankawa, “will be open to everyone,” said Mgr Warda. “Every year, it will welcome at least 250 students." “I hope that all the students – Christians, Muslims, Yazidis – will be able to breathe the Catholic faith and its fundamental values,” the prelate told AsiaNews.
The facility will have various departments: "oriental studies, information technology, languages, education and business administration." It will also host young people from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain.
"The first activities of the Catholic University will start on Friday, 11 December,” the prelate added. “Some 96 courses will be available in Biblical and theological studies. They will be open to refugees aged 18 to 40. We expect some 300 people." (DS)