Iraq’s Christians To Build University

ROME (CNS) — The Archdiocese of Arbil in northern Iraq has announced plans for the construction of a university and hospital.

Both projects come in response to the increasing number of Christians moving into the area, including skilled professionals trained in education and medicine.

On Jan. 31, the regional government guaranteed the local archdiocese a gift of two pieces of land for the projects. The university and hospital will be run by the church and owned by the archdiocese but will be open to all people regardless of their religious or political preferences.

Archbishop Bashar Warda of Arbil said construction of the university and hospital would provide jobs, training and other opportunities to thousands of Christians in the area.

“We do not want Christians to leave Iraq, ” Archbishop Warda told Aid to the Church in Need, an organization providing support for persecuted Christians. “It is clear that our society needs schools, universities and hospitals and this provides us with an opportunity to encourage the Christians to build a future for themselves here. ”

The 320,000-square foot university site and 86,000-square foot hospital site will be “symbols of hope for the Christian presence, ” Archbishop Warda said. He said he would like the projects to be completed within two years, but a fundraising campaign must be initiated before construction can begin.

Iraq’s Christian population has decreased from 800,000 to about 400,000 over the last decade. Christians fleeing the Baghdad and Mosul regions often go to Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan. The latest pilgrims came to the Archdiocese of Arbil after a massacre on a Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad Oct. 31, 2010.

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