Education is vital to bring hope to the IDPs, and it was the goal of H.E. Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda to ensure the continuity of educational career of these people.
Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil launched several educational institutions, including: building Educational Schools, hosting Hamdaniya University in Erbil and building the First Catholic University in Iraq.
1 – Building Educational Schools for IDPs
With the generous donations of international donors, Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil built four schools in Erbil city dedicated to the IDP Children from 2014 until 2017. Two of which are still operational and are devoted to the IDP children whose families are currently residing in Erbil.
The schools were open to students from the IDP families of various faiths and ethnicities, building the goal of diversity and coexistence among the young individuals. They are being helped to pursue their education and their future goals.
The Archdiocese is financially supporting over 35 per cent of the 844 pupils at the four schools: 231 IDPs and 69 refugees from different religious and ethnic backgrounds.
2 – Hosting Hamdaniya University of Mosul in Erbil
The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research of the central government of Iraq instructed the management of Hamdaniya University, which was previously located in the Nineveh Plains, to close down its doors and move to an alternative location. Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil helped by providing them with land in Ankawa to construct the university building, with the help of overseas aid.
The first phase of the building was dedicated to construct 24 classrooms, computer labs, and 14 administrative rooms for the lecturers and the management of the university. The rooms were fully furnished in addition to the installation of ACs and a generator for the complex. During the first phase, the building received 1,300 students, 56 university instructors, and 80 administrators.
The second phase of the project included the construction of eight additional classrooms and a multi-purpose hall in addition to parking lots, the installation of a second generator, and additional services required for the university.
3 – Establishing the Catholic University in Iraq
In 2014 the evil of ISIS not only destroyed Iraq but deprived hundreds of thousands of young people their education. The Catholic University in Erbil (CUE) was founded in December 2015 to give back to these young people their right to education and hope.
For a community that lost many of its people along with its homes, jobs, and money, CUE provided a sense of safety, normality and belonging. It continues this mission today under circumstances where ISIS has been defeated, but displacement and uncertainty continues for many. CUE is a statement that, out of tragedy God can provide an answer for hope and the future. CUE, while it maintains a catholic identity, welcomes students of all religious and ethnic backgrounds to learn in an environment of mutual respect, coexistence tolerance, and academic excellence, promoting quality, dignity, and justice. CUE is a key structure in keeping Christianity in Iraq.
CUE presently has nine departments and 124 students. The Archdiocese is financially supporting over 60 per cent of the 124 student fees at CUE.
Syrian Refugee Crisis (Directed by Fr. Shwan Kakona and Lito Articona)
Since 2011 and the outbreak of war in Syria, Syrian refugees have been a part of Erbil community. However, they remain vulnerable and their situation have not improved throughout the years. A lot of them sought shelter in Erbil to apply for immigration with United Nations, while others tried to adapt and integrate in the local community of Erbil.
The Archdiocese has and continues to help Syrian vulnerable refugees through different programs that vary from giving monthly food baskets to providing chronic medications and distribution of cash assistance.
The most recent program implemented by Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil to help Syrian refugees was done through donations from the Aid to Church in Need from a major contribution by the Archbishops of Austria. Through this fund, the Archdiocese responded to the call of nearly 500 Syrian refugee families who remain extremely vulnerable due to the economic crisis and then to COVID-19. The cash assistance program included giving $100 for 500 households for 5 months, which lasted from March until July 2020.
Transitional Assistance for IDPs in Erbil, Iraq
Since the right to return in July 2017 many IDPs were not able to return to their areas of origin due to many reasons including insecure areas of origin, lack of employment and destroyed properties. They stayed dependent on the charity of the local community, but even the local community suffers from unemployment.
USAID funded Transitional Assistance program through which The Archdiocese and CRS worked together to help around 2,800 IDP households in Ankawa and Erbil.
The Archdiocese with the help and management of CRS provided multi-purpose cash assistance of $150 per month to targeted households for nine months to help meet their essential needs.
The project’s criteria included IDPs that are from persecuted religious and ethnic backgrounds. Helping minorities from Nineveh plain and Mosul city to live in dignity in areas of displacement or return to their areas of origin.
The implementing partners also used this program as a research project to understand key barriers faced by religious minority IDPs, as well as the effect of cash and information on decision-making, and looking for opportunities to learn and to successfully cope with the future.