By Martin Roth, BosNewsLife Senior Columnist
BAGHDAD, IRAQ (BosNewsLife Columns)– We do not hear much good news for Christians from Iraq nowadays, so I was encouraged to learn about a new school there that, against all odds, is achieving great success in turning angry and confused young refugee kids into enthusiastic students.
It is run by Douglas Bazi, a Chaldean Christian priest, who spoke with me through Skype about his activities.
Bazi confirmed that life isn’t easy for a devoted Christian in Iraq. In fact, he has achieved a degree of renown. He was once kidnapped by Islamists. They used a hammer to break his teeth, his knees and his back. The torment only ended when his church paid a ransom to win his release. But he was forced to spend a year in bed, recovering from his injuries.
He has also been in churches that have been bombed,. And he has seen members of his congregation murdered. He has been urged to leave the country, for his own protection. But he refuses.
Bazi is now a priest at Mar Elias church in a somewhat more secure part of Iraq, in Ankawa, a Christian suburb of Erbil, which is the capital of Kurdistan. Though just 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Islamic State-controlled Mosul, the region is well protected and the group is not deemed a threat.
His church has a large, sprawling garden, and Christians fleeing the genocide of Islamic State militants have found sanctuary there, living in 120 caravans.
It is among the caravans that he has launched his new school, staffed by volunteers and aimed at giving education – and hope – to some 200 youngsters, and to their parents as well.
Several caravans are classrooms. One is a computer lab. There is also a library. He wanted to take the children to the cinema, but it was expensive. So he was able to acquire a large television set, and another of the caravans is now a cinema. “I want to give the children a future,” he said. “I want them to be creative. We must not transfer our hatreds to them.”
His programs seem to be working. Youngsters and adults arrived angry and aggressive, and traumatized from their experiences. With little to occupy them in their new environment they then became restless and depressed.
Now, thanks to the school and an extensive program that incorporates sports and drama classes, as well as more traditional subjects, he is witnessing enormous changes. The students have become happy, enthusiastic learners. Their parents have found a sense of community. A feeling of peace and joy embraces the caravans.
Some of the families have refused to leave when given the chance to be resettled in apartments.
The students learn English, among other subjects, and the priest has a request. “I need books,” he told me. “Especially picture books for the younger children, but also books suitable for older children and adults.”
Rather than novels he would prefer collections of short stories, as well as non-fiction titles with lots of illustrations.
So email him if you have books to donate to this man of faith: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Martin Roth (www.authormartinroth.com), BosNewsLife’s Senior Columnist, is an Australian journalist and a former Tokyo-based foreign correspondent. He is the author of “Journey Out Of Nothing: My Buddhist Path to Christianity” and of the Brother Half Angel series of thrillers, which focus on the persecuted church. BosNewsLife Columns distributes opinionated columns and commentaries providing a fresh perspective on issues in the news. They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BosNewsLife News Agency or its parent company).