Sulaymaniyya – In Sulaymaniyya, in Iraqi Kurdistan, there are currently no tensions, but the refugee emergency, caused by the war against ISIS and the internal instability of Iraq, has not ended. This is what Fr. Jens Petzold, a religious of Mar Musa (the community founded by Jesuit father Paolo Dall’Oglio), who has been in Kurdistan for years, says in an interview with Agenzia Fides. “For three years – observes Father Jens – we have hosted Christian refugees who have fled before the advance of the militiamen of the Islamic State in our community in Sulaymaniyya. In the most critical period, 250 men, women and children were sleeping, eating and living with us. An emergency we responded to thanks to international aid and our personal commitment. In September, the last group of refugees left our community and returned home. Most of them came from Qaraqosh”.
Kurdistan has welcomed 1,700,000 displaced people and refugees. In the area of Sulaymaniyya alone there were 200 thousand (including five thousand Christians). “The emergency is not over”, continues Father Jens. “Many Sunni Muslims cannot and do not want to return to their homeland for fear of Shiite reprisals. Then we also have numerous Syrian refugees (mostly Kurds) who do not want to return home, because they fear insecurity”.
Faced with this emergency, Father Jens and the many volunteers are engaged in various projects. The most important is the language school (Kurdish, English and Arabic) including theatrical activities. “We are thinking – explains the religious – of creating a popular school. In addition to languages, we would like to include other subjects: history, philosophy, literature. We want to offer these activities to everyone: Kurds, refugees. We make no distinction between faith or ethnicity”. Father Jens and the volunteers also work in Kanakawa, a Yazidi village not far from Sulaymaniyya, where they teach language and literacy courses.
“We – the religious concludes – turn to young people, we must help them learn useful skills. The aim is to create a more structured economy”.
Source: Agenzia Fides