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Haven provided

08 November 2013


Going online: Fr Najeeb at the Digital Centre for Eastern Manuscripts

Going online: Fr Najeeb at the Digital Centre for Eastern Manuscripts

CHRISTIANS fleeing the sectarian violence in Iraq and Syria are find­ing a safe haven in the region of Kurdistan that spans Iraq's north­ern border with Turkey.

Sarah Panizzo, a trustee of Gulan, a UK-based charity that promotes the Kurdistan culture abroad, said: "The situation for the Christian communities in Kurdistan is good. Christianity is flourishing."

Less than 30 years ago, Iraqi Kurds were victims of frequent as­­saults by Saddam Hussein's forces, including the poison-gas attack in March 1988 on the town of Halabja, but the region subsequently received a measure of protection under a no-fly zone imposed by the United States and British military.

"Since the early 1990s," Ms Panizzo said, "communities have been rebuilt, the economy is grow­ing, and the Christians have shared in this increasing prosperity, and their children in the increased op­­por­­tunities for education.


The part played by Christians was examined in an event organised by Gulan, a charity that promotes Kurdish culture, at the Royal examined in an event organised by Gulan, a charity that promotes Kurdish culture, at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Thursday of last week.

The speakers were the novelist and publisher Dr Saadi Al Malih, a member of the Kurdistan regional government; and Fr Najeeb Michaeel OP, who founded the Digital Center for Eastern Manu­scripts in the northern city of Mosul.

The centre has been working since 1990 on recording millions of pages of ancient religious manu­scripts, including the Bible, the Qur'an, liturgical texts, and writ­ings by scholars held in monasteries and other religious establishments all over the Middle East.

"Many date from the 12th or 13th century, but most come from the 17th and 18th centuries" Fr Najeeb said. "They are being put on line gradually by St John's University, in Minnesota, in the US, so scholars can study them. 

"Many are in very poor condition because of the humid conditions; so we have been more concerned with their conservation and digitisation than examining them in detail, but perhaps one day someone will uncover something that changes our knowledge of the early years of our faith."

"Sing for Syria". UNICEF UK is inviting people to "Sing for Syria", writes Gill Newman. There are many different ways in which churches can get involved, from organising a concert to carol singing, or simply giving the collection from a pre-arranged carol service.

In an open letter, Shelley Pigott, of UNICEF UK, wrote: "More than four million Syrian children are presently in need of humanitarian aid as a result of this terrible crisis.                   

"Children are already fragile as a result of this horrific conflict. They desperately need warm clothes and blankets to protect them from the extreme cold. Right now, our resources are at breaking point. Without extra funding we may have to scale back on some life-saving work. We need your help to reach every child who needs us."

The International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, announced last week that the Government will match, pound for pound, all public donations to UNICEF UK's Syria appeal until the end of January.

www.unicef.org.uk/singforsyriachurches; email fundraisinghelp@unicef.org.uk; or phone 0844 801 2414.


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