“We will continue to serve the whole community, being witnesses to the Lord.” we are an ethnic community with our own native language and heritage. We provide resources to keep our ethnic identity as Assyrians alive, whether it’s by printing books or training teachers of the Assyrian language.” While CAPNI serves as a bridge between Iraq’s vulnerable Christians and the international Christian community, he adds, this relationship goes beyond financial support. “Moral support is just as important as material support,” he says. “When you are isolated in a very remote village in the mountains of Kurdistan, and a delegation from the Lutheran Church in Germany comes to visit you, to listen to your story and support rebuilding your church and community, the people realize they are not alone. “They may speak different languages, but the fact that others travel so far to accompany them and pray with them, that gives a lot of moral encouragement.”
fter the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, amid the social and political disintegration that quickly followed, CAPNI gained
access to villages in the Nineveh Plain. Although the region had been under government control, Abuna Emanuel says the administration had invested little in maintaining the infrastructure of a region with a non-Arab and non-Muslim majority. CAPNI helped villagers to rebuild — work that coincided with the arrival of Christians fleeing sectarian violence in places like Baghdad and Basra. The newly displaced found safety in the small villages that stretch across the Nineveh Plain, where CAPNI provided income-generating projects and cultural promotion. But in 2014, ISIS swept across the region. “Almost overnight, the population of Dohuk went from 1.3 million to 2 million,” Abuna Emanuel explains. “Many of the displaced arrived with just the clothes on their backs. “We diverted all our resources to helping the displaced — Christians and Yazidis, as well as Muslims — with food, shelter, clothing and other life-saving resources. The dimensions of the disaster went beyond anyone’s ability to respond adequately, but thanks be to God for the agencies and churches
around the world that immediately supported our work.” As the region tried to absorb the displaced, CAPNI sought out niches of solidarity where its resources could do the most good, satisfying the greatest needs. Its initiatives include administering a hospital in Sinoni, a Yazidi enclave in the Sinjar region. “We are a Christian organization, supported by Christian funds from Christian churches, but most of our work there is with Yazidis, simply because they are the most vulnerable. This response stems from our Christian faith, not from sectarian values,” Abuna Emanuel says. Other needs take a variety of forms. For instance, many Arabicspeaking families with schoolage children have taken refuge in villages where instruction is in Kurdish or Assyro-Chaldean. Through a network of 80 small buses, weaving through camps and villages, CAPNI helped more than 3,100 students to attend classes in Arabic in 2016 — often in newly established schools, such as one in Dohuk run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena.
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF CNEWA
The official publication of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)