Refugee children at a refugee camp in Duhok, Iraq, March 28, 2015. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
– While Christian schools in Iraq continue to suffer, a non-profit that promotes positive engagement in the Middle East is aiming to provide computers to Assyrian Christian schools.
In partnership with the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, the Philos Project is trying to raise $25,000 to install computer labs for Christian schools throughout northern Iraq.
Iraqi Kurdistan has seen a drastic decrease in educational funds, said Juliana Taimoorazy, advocacy fellow for the Philos Project and founder of Iraqi Christian Relief Council.
“These schools don’t have what they need from a technology perspective,” she said.
“It’s really debilitating because they’re unable to type on Word for example, physically or create spreadsheets. Everything they’re doing is by theory. I mean, you can imagine how integral computers are in our daily lives,” she said, pointing to the fact that most homes in Western culture have a computer.
She said that out of 23 Christian schools in the area, the project will provide computer labs for five of them. The Christian schools range from elementary to high school.
These computer labs will consist of printers, projectors, and at least five laptops, electrical wires, and internet routers.
For four years, these schools in Iraq have requested Taimoorazy for new computers because scarcely any families have this technology themselves and the few schools that do have these machines own computers that were manufactured around 2004.
“I kid you not, they have books. They study book to book through pages [on how to] create spreadsheets, how to turn it on and off, how to do a cut and paste, how to create a graphic for example, or attach a graphic into the word document,” she said.
Taimoorazy, who is the granddaughter of a survivor of the Armenian genocide, has also been persecuted in Iraq for her faith. She said Christian children not only face difficulties to obtain their education but they have also been persecuted. During her time in Iran, she talked about times when she was not allowed to play with Muslim children and moments when she was ridiculed for her faith.
She said that since the invasion of the Islamic State funds for Christian schools have drastically decreased.
“People started giving to life-sustaining projects like food, tents, and repairing their homes, if they’re going back to their homes. The amount of money that was allocated for schools, for teachers or transportation or printing books and translating books from Kurdish to Assyrian or Syriac, it’s dropped to really a very, very low level.”
Among other hardships that these schools face, she said educators continue to teach without being paid and some students are not able to access school because of a lack of transportation.
However, she said they are strong-willed people with a deep respect for education. Some of the students are even trilingual, understanding Assyrian, Arabic, and Kurdish. She said that while parents will struggle with the basic necessities, these families will sacrifice to further their children’s education.
“They’re actually resilient children, but they haven’t seen anything but war, devastation, hunger, and yet they have such love, profound love for education,” she said.
“[These] people will grow up to go out there in the world to serve humanity and based on their own experience, based on the trauma that they’ve gone through, they can be even more impactful. I come from a traumatized generation … We suffer from collective and generational trauma. We have been persecuted. My great grandparents were persecuted.”
She expressed hope that the worldwide Christian community and people of goodwill will take this project seriously. She stressed the importance of offering these children equal opportunities in technology, noting that, in order to be successful, these children must have hands-on experience with computers.
“We have to remember what John Paul II said that ‘the Church breathes with both lungs’ and we cannot forget the right lung of the Church, which is Eastern Christianity. So my plea to the Catholic world, to the Christian world in the West is not to forget their brothers and sisters in the East, and to really help these young minds, these young children to lead dignified lives,” she said.