Affected by Traumas of the Past, Iraq’s Youth Look Forward With Hope

Editors’ Note: In “Fueled by Vision and Faith” in the March 2024 edition of ONE magazine, Alex McKenna reports on how the church in Iraq has been working to empower its youth since the end of ISIS, and how these young adults remain rooted in faith and hope despite the challenges they face. In his audio report, he explores how this hope became evident to him while working on his assignment. A full transcript is available below.

Listen to the audio report:

In preparing my article on the Christian youth of Iraq, I had an encounter that did not end with the youth and the young adults. It did not end in the churches, but instead it began with the students, with the young adult professionals, with the educators, with the medical doctors, and opened very quickly into speaking with their mentors as well, and their teachers and his excellency, of course, Archbishop Warda, who leads the Archdiocese of Erbil in northern Iraq.

And through their eyes, I was able to witness not only hope, but fear, and not only one community, but the entire people of the Chaldeans, who have called northern Iraq, and Iraq as a whole, home for over 2,000 years.

And in the eyes of the youth and of their leaders, I found in many ways a lot of similarities to the experience of Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” He’s visited by three ghosts, of course, as we know — ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. And so, I got to see the Chaldean people through the eyes of the present, but witnessing the ghosts of the past and the ghosts of the future, yet to be made tangible, yet to be enfleshed.

And it was, in particular, that ghost of the future that the Chaldean youth readily grasped on to. They did not view it as something to seep through their fingers, as simply a shade flitting about in the night, but rather, as something tangible to be seized, a carpe diem, if you will. They looked upon their future as one that could be dark, that could have trials, that could make or break, but ultimately, one that they were willing to accept as their own, and that they were excited to embark upon.

It was clear from the amount of effort that they put into their work — and their deep desire to serve the church and to serve Christ in the tangible activities of education and medicine and international humanitarian aid — that the future for them was not about pining and waiting and being victims of present circumstances or past wars and battles and persecution, but rather a day to be held on to, a moment in their life that, no matter whether it was dark or light, they were going to be prepared for and offer everything in their lives to be ready for. They truly are a people of hope. A prudent people of hope.

Read Fueled by Vision and Faith” in the March 2024 edition of ONE magazine.

Alex McKenna teaches in and writes from Erbil, Iraq.

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