ACN PROJECT OF THE WEEK
Providing retreat days for up to 1,200 young people
Every year the Archdiocese of Erbil organizes a series of retreat days for young people. They are aimed in particular at those young adults who for the whole year are profoundly engaged in the life of the parishes, for example in catechetical work, in the youth groups and so forth.
Given the huge numbers of Christians who have been internally displaced from the cities and villages of Iraq, above all by the seizure of these places by the so-called Islamic State, it is an immense challenge for the Church to provide a 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. For they are demonstrating to other young people that it is worthwhile to stay in Iraq and to get involved on behalf of the people and the Church. It also allows them to help others see a future for themselves and gives them courage not to abandon their country.
From time to time we hear talk of a “tsunami of emigration,” which may potentially mean that one day no Christians will be left in Iraq. As recently as 2003 there were still 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq; but today the number has dropped to 300,000 or so. These numbers indicate that over the last 12 years,an average of 100,000 Christians have left each year.
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, the celebration of a 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 1,100 and 1,200 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 is supporting the four sessions with a contribution of 43,500 dollars.