Every year the Archdiocese of Erbil organizes a series of retreat days for young people. They are aimed particularly at those young adults who for the whole year are deeply engaged in the life of the parishes, such as catechetical work, or work in the youth groups. Given the huge numbers of Christians who have been internally displaced from the cities and villages of Iraq by the seizure of these places by the so-called Islamic State, it is an immense challenge for the Church to provide pastoral outreach to so many uprooted people.
These volunteer helpers, most of whom are themselves also refugees, are performing a precious service in this respect. They are demonstrating to other young people that it is worthwhile to stay on in Iraq and get involved on behalf of the people and the Church there. In this way, they can also help other people to see some future for themselves and decide not to abandon the country.
From time to time we hear talk of a “tsunami of emigration,” which could potentially mean that one day there will be no Christians left in Iraq. As recently as 2003 there were still 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq; today Christians number no more than 300,000. This means that over the last 12 years, an average of 100,000 Christians each year have left their country.
The aim of the retreat days – of which there will be four – is to strengthen these young women and men in their life of faith and in their commitment to the Church, and at the same time to be a sort of “reward” for their involvement and hard work. The participants are generally aged between 17 and 35. Each day will include four hours of catechesis, together with Holy Mass, an opportunity for Confession, study and meditation on scriptural texts, shared prayer, and group sessions with mutual exchange of ideas and experiences.
This year somewhere between 1100 and 1200 young adults are expected to take part in these retreat days, which will be led by a team of 25 priests, 65 religious Sisters and 40 senior volunteers. ACN has committed to supporting the four sessions with a contribution of $32,500.
Will you give to sponsor retreat days for these young Christians in Iraq? We are sure they will gratefully remember you in their prayers.
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