Less than a year after the pope’s historic visit to Iraq and despite the hardships caused by the epidemic, first-year students are now benefiting from the “Pope Francis Scholarship” funded by Aid to the Church in Need.
The partnership between Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and the Catholic University (CUE) in Erbil is helping to build a brighter future for Iraqi Christians and other minorities in the north of the country.
The Church in Need will be the first and main donor to provide more than $ 1.7 million in funding for the Pope Francis Scholarship. It will benefit 150 young students, at least 90% of whom are Christians, in four years. Scholarships will enable the Catholic University of Erbil to accept four times more Christian students than ever before.
Promoting social cohesion and interfaith understanding
Many of the students are internally displaced people who were forced out of their homes in the region by IS terrorists in 2014. Under the banner of “Pope Francis Scholarship”, a group of 128 students including 113 Christians, 12 Yazidis and 3 Muslims supported by ACN started the academic year 2022/2023. The charity is helping to locate 12 male and 2 male students from the Nineveh Plains near the University of Erbil.
In addition to academic standards, the university’s valuable fruit is the promotion of social cohesion and interfaith understanding in a country that is still recovering from nearly two decades of conflict and oppression.
Invest in the future
The start of the “Pope Francis” scholarship program, originally scheduled for the fall of 2021 after the historic pope’s visit to Iraq, has been postponed to 2022 due to the epidemic. “The CUE model encourages the whole family to stay and not to leave the country; Their children will have an excellent education to look for a job and thus Iraq will have a future to support them and their parents, “said Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil and founder of the university.
“If you give young Christians a chance to get a good education, they will stay. ACN has already done its best to help Christians stay at home by investing in rebuilding their homes, their churches and vital infrastructure. Now is the time to invest in the country’s youth, “said Thomas Hein-Gelderon, ACN’s executive president, when the project was announced in March 2021.
Preserving the legacy of Pope Francis’s visit
Mr Hein-Geldern believes this is a good way to preserve the legacy of Pope Francis’ visit. “We believe this project will strengthen the Pope’s message for social cohesion and reconciliation. Diversity is at the heart of the university. Here young people of different religions can learn to live together in peace. ”
(Need church – skr)