A youth-oriented conference in Iraq and encourages almost 2,000 young Christians to invest in both their country and their community. ACN helped make this project a reality.
More than 1,800 young Christians from seven archdioceses and more than 60 parishes gathered in Ankawa, Iraq from June 29th to July 1st for the Ankawa Youth Meeting (AYM). Also in attendance were religious leaders from the Chaldean Catholic Church, the largest Christian church in Iraq.
The festival was held near Erbil in the Kurdish north of Iraq, and included Eucharistic celebrations, confession, retreats, seminars, debates, catechesis, and other forms of Christian education. Erbil became a haven for thousands of Christians fleeing persecution almost a decade ago, when Islamic fundamentalists of the Islamic State occupied Mosul and overran dozens of Christian towns and villages in the Nineveh Plain.
“Christians in Iraq have faced many challenges since ISIS and before ISIS. They look to the Church to guide them and help build their future through pastoral work and related institutions; we now have six churches, a seminary, some catechist centres, four schools, a university, and a hospital,” said Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil in a message sent to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which helped to fund the gathering.
the meeting were directly affected by the worst of ISIS, but Khorany reports that this has not weakened their faith. On the contrary, she says, they want “to stay and support the Church, so that Christianity will not vanish from the region. There have been economic, social, and other effects, but people are holding onto the Christian faith, and people are trying to really apply these Christian values in their lives.
We are a people of peace. Our message is that even though these hardships are things we have experienced, we still want to promote peace. We want to promote a culture of coexistence with all the other religions and groups in the country.”
Thanks to the PopeACN
Events like the annual AYM play a very important role in sustaining the morale of young Christians. In recent years, there have been other high points, like the Pope’s visit to Iraq in 2021. Says Khorany: “Sometimes when it is dark, you need that light, and the Pope’s visit was like that, because it showed he is here, and he cares, and he encourages us to live our faith, despite many hardships and difficulties. Some didn’t believe that it would happen. I was at the event, and some people were crying with joy, because this visit was finally accomplished, and the Pope was here. They were really moments of joy and hope.”
ACN has supported the Church in Iraq for many years and is a major partner in funding the AYM, covering over 70 percent of the total projected cost. Bishop Warda made a point of recognising this help in his message, saying that without it, the gathering would not have taken place, and Khorany confirms this. “We insist on standing on our own two feet, and we can only do that because of the help we are getting from ACN, so thank you very much for helping us rebuild,” she said.
Source : The Church Need