lunedì, novembre 21, 2011


New Christian school in Iraq. Mgr. Bashar M. Warda and Mgr. Giorgio Lingua

By Baghdadhope*

Opening of Mar Qardakh Christian school in Erbil, northern Iraq.
Baghdadhope spoke with the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Mgr. Bashar M. Warda and to the Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan and Iraq, Mgr. Giorgio Lingua.

In early 2011, the Chaldean archbishop of Erbil, Mgr. Bashar M. Warda, submitted the project to create a hospital and a university in the northern Iraqi city that since many years ago has become a forced destination for Christians fleeing violence in other cities of the country.
A hospital and a university that, although owned and managed by the archdiocese, will be open to all, regardless of ethnicity and religion, and will give many Christians the chance to work and then to rebuild their lives.
An ambitious project the archdiocese is working hard on - the start of the construction of the hospital is in fact scheduled for next December - and that a few days ago began to take shape with the opening of a linked project: the primary and secondary school dedicated to Mar Qardakh, patron saint of the archdiocese and a very important figure in the history of the Eastern churches because of the martyrdom he suffered from for having converted, - him, a noble Persian of Zoroastrian faith - to the Christian faith after meeting the hermit Abdisho', and because he surrendered to the Persian soldiers who were besieging him in the mountains after St. Stephen had appeared to him in a dream suggesting him to give up the fight and rather sacrifice his life in the name of faith.
A school, that of Mar Qardakh, that is rooted in the historical past but that has nothing of ancient in it being, as it is, an institution dedicated to the formation of a cultural élite whose education will not be worse than that offered by countries usually considered most advanced in the field of education.

Baghdadhope spoke about it with Mgr. Warda.
"The project for the primary and secondary school began about ten months ago," said the bishop, "the building is on a plot of land owned by the archdiocese and was built thanks to an investment of $ 3,400,000, 1,600.000 $ donated by the U.S. government through the Office for the Protection of Minorities of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and 1,800,000 $ provided by the archdiocese " "It 'a private school based on the American model and structured on 12 levels starting from seven years of age and that, if we consider the Italian school system, goes roughly from the elementary school to at the end of the secondary school."
How many students has the school?
"174 children in the first 4 degrees"
What will be taught in the school?
"The school is managed by two American Christian couples specialized in education who will also prepare to the teaching qualification boys and girls already graduated in Iraqi universities, 27 of whom are already in the school teaching staff, and the students to achieve the International Baccalaureate. The curriculum is based on international standards and was approved by the Ministry of Education of the autonomous region of Kurdistan where Erbil is located. The subjects will be taught in English, the compulsory second language is French and the students will choose between Arabic and Kurdish as the third language. It 'a full-time school where classes start at 8.00 a.m. and finish at 4.00 p.m. and it also provides a system of extra-curricular activities and tutoring for students who need to catch up in certain subjects. Moreover each student has at his disposal a notebook. "
A cutting-edge school. Why English as the teaching language?
"We choce a "scientific " language, if one might say so, and not a 'national' one. Erbil is in the Kurdish territory, but there are many Arabic speakers, for example many of the Christians who came here from areas of the country where Kurdish is not spoken. To choose one of these two languages as the only teaching language would then create problems and difficulties for the students. As both Arabic and Kurdish are subjects of study English was the best choice to avoid these problems and especially because it is the language that our students can "spend" everywhere, in Iraq and in the world. "
One notebook per student is a dream in many countries of the world ..
" Iraqis, deprived for many years of technology upgrades that were normal elsewhere have become real enthusiasts and experts. Students must acquire all the means that will enable them to face the modern world. In addition there will be web contacts between our school and schools in Canada, Australia and the United States and, hopefully starting from the next year, with France. The students will improve their language learning and will have direct contacts with peers from around the world. Besides that the school, as the hospital and the university, will employ many Christians who in many cases had to leave their homes leaving all they owned but who have skills that would be a shame to waste. The migration of Iraqi Christians abroad has unfortunately decimated the community, a problem often denounced as a sign of a possible complete disappearance of the community from the country. But to denounce is not enough. Who is still here needs encouragement but also needs to work, to build a decent future without depending on others, whether church or government. In addition to this the school will employ women who in a Middle Eastern society where old values still prevail would be destined to remain outside the job market."
A very open-minded attitude....
"Realistic more than open-minded, I would say. In any case respectful of cultural traditions. A woman working in our school, our university or in our hospital, will work in a safe environment and will slowly take even the more traditional families to accept her new role as part of the society we all want to build."
Let’s go back to the school of Mar Qardakh owned by the Archdiocese of Erbil. Are the students only Christian?
"Yes, by now. The principles of the Christian religion are the guiding light of the school and we will apply for it to be officially named as a "Catholic" school. This does not mean that non-Christian students will not be accepted. The Christian principles do not exclude, but rather, accept everyone with love. For this reason we hope that non-Christian students will enroll in the school. We have to wait .... "
Iraqi Christian community has always played an important role in the spread of culture in the country. We can remember, for example, the Jesuit college in Baghdad that was nationalized in 1968 by the Baath Party and that from its birth in 1932 was one of the most important cultural institutions of the country to the extent that sometimes it had more Muslim than Christian students, or the schools run by the Church in the past but also today. Do you think that Christians in the new Iraq will regain their role of culture spreaders?
"Being a Christian is not easy in Iraq. You need faith and courage. Culture is certainly a valid way to assert our role as full citizens in the country we love and that is ours as of all the other Iraqis."

A modern school based on the principles of the Christian religion in a predominantly Muslim country like Iraq.
An institution that the Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan and Iraq, Mgr. Giorgio Lingua, described to Baghdadhope as: "A first class school project" realized at "amazing speed". The wish expressed by the Nuncio is that such an institution can form a new ruling class firmly inspired by the Christian values that will take it to put at the service of the entire community the education received because, as he said in his speech at the inauguration of the school, the education of the individual has no value unless it is for the good of all.
According to Mgr. Lingua those who have the responsibility to educate and train the new generations have to remember the importance of teaching them the mentality of love that is the mentality of Jesus Christ who lived in Palestine in a period of religious, political and economical tensions and violence but did not try to solve the problems, did not fight against the oppressors, but began to create a new mentality in his disciples, a mentality that was against the rules when he said 'Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. '
The mentality of love that the new generations of students will need not so much for their personal and economic success, but to create a better world.
The presence of Mgr. Lingua in Erbil for the opening of the school of Mar Qardakh has undoubtedly stressed the importance the Holy See through the Nunciature has toward the Iraqi community of Christian faith and that is expressed, as explained by the Nuncio, in different ways.
The encouragement to the international cooperation through the embassies in Baghdad in aid of the weaker sections of the Iraqi society, for example through development projects that target the areas in which many Christians have fled for safety reasons, but also the support of Caritas International, and again in the field of education the promotion of scholarships in favour of Christian students in both Iraq, through Caritas, and abroad in collaboration with the Embassy of Poland and the European Union.
As the Archbishop Warda said being Christian in Iraq is not easy and initiatives such as the school of Mar Qardakh or those promoted by the Apostolic Nunciature will not solve all the problems. But they are strong signals of the will of the Iraqi Christians to remain in their own country and contribute to its revival. It's time for all the parties in Iraq, despite the ethnicity and faith, to do the same.
In the name of the country that everyone loves.

At the opening ceremony of the school of Mar Qardakh, on Saturday, Nov. 12, there were the titular archbishop of the diocese, Archbishop Bashar M. Warda, the Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan and Iraq, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Governor of Erbil, Mr. Hadi Nauzad, the coordinator for minority affairs at the U.S. embassy in Iraq, Mr. Peter Bodde and the American General Consul in Kurdistan, Mr. Alexander Laskaris.

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