In the morning, we visited one of the medical clinics and refugee camps in Erbil. The camp is overseen by one of the local priests and the Dominican Sisters are actively present. The clinic is supported by and was built with the assistance of CNEWA. More than 90 children are seen at the pediatric clinic each day. Hundreds of adults are seen and administered other medical services at the clinic.
The camp holds more than 1,200 families — most living in their own trailer. Some families are doubled up. About 50 families are living in single room containers in a large warehouse type building. While this is a refugee “camp,” it appears more like a makeshift “village.” Families try to make the best of the situation — redecorating and renovating their trailers to suit their individual family needs. Some small businesses have opened and are selling basic necessities. In the “village,” more than 400 young people are preparing for their First Communion.
In the afternoon and evening, we had the opportunity to meet with the local Archbishop and hear his understanding of the current situation. His report is both painful and hopeful. He tells of the cruelty that the Christians have faced in the past few years — often times at the hands of those who were their neighbors and friends. At the same time, he speaks of the courage and hope of the more than 80,000 Christians who fled from the Mosul area to Erbil. The suffering and persecution coupled with the courage and hope are essential parts of the story of the past few years as well as the present.