Iraqi Diocese to Build Hospital, University

Seeks to Employ Skilled Christian Refugees

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ANKAWA, Iraq, JAN. 31, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Iraqi Archdiocese of Arbil is moving forward with plans to construct a hospital and a university, providing services and jobs for thousands of Christian fleeing violence in the south.

Today the regional government gave the archdiocese a guarantee that it will gift two pieces of land in Ankawa, a suburb of Arbil in northern Iraq, for the building of these institutions, Aid to the Church in Need reported.

Archbishop Bashar Warda of Arbil told the aid agency that the initiatives are expected to provide employment, training, and other opportunities for the thousands fleeing anti-Christian violence in the Baghdad and Mosul regions.

In particular, he noted that the projects respond to the fact that many highly-skilled professionals with expertise in education and medicine have relocated to the north.

The prelate affirmed, "The plans we have been developing over the past few months are symbols of hope for the Christian presence in our country."

"The people arriving here from places of violence are receiving the gift of relative security," he affirmed. "They themselves are willing to offer the gift of their services in a region which cannot cope with the demands of an increasing population."

Open doors

The hospital and university will be owned by the archdiocese and run by the Church, but Archbishop Warda underlined the fact that the doors would be open to all people of all religions and beliefs.

The 100-bed hospital will have eight operating rooms, and will occupy a plot of land measuring more than 86,000 square feet. The university will be built on a piece of property larger than 320,000 square feet.

The archbishop appealed for economic support from governments, charities and NGOs for the accomplishment of these projects.

He noted that both institutions aim to open their doors within two years.

The prelate expressed the hope that these projects will slow the Christian exodus from that country. "We do not want Christians to leave Iraq," he said.

Archbishop Warda stated, "It is clear that our society here needs schools, universities and hospitals and this provides us with an opportunity to encourage the Christians to build a future for themselves here."

He added that he hopes to initiate similar projects elsewhere in the Middle East.