Bashar Warda, Archbishop of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, stated, “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."
Hundreds of people have migrated to Iraqi Kurdistan, as IS militants have captured Mosul and Nineveh plains. 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 university aims to be the place for scientific researches. It is open for all those, who want to pursue higher education, including young refugees.
Yesterday, 8 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, which ended today. 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 programs.
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.
Mgr Warda said, “The new Catholic educational facility in Erbil, not far from the refugee camps in Ankawa, will be open to everyone.”
“I hope that all the students – Christians, Muslims, Yazidis – will be able to breathe the Catholic faith and its fundamental values,” the prelate told.
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 this 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."