In July 2017, The Revd Nadim Nassar and Huda Nassar travelled to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan for the first of this year’s Ambassador for Peace programmes. We are very grateful to Tearfund for making all of the resources available to us for this project; their continued partnership and support mean so much to us.
60 young men and women, many of whom were Syrian Orthodox or Syrian Catholic, joined us at the Karlovy Vary Hotel in the suburb of Ainkawa to begin the third stage of their journey. The theme of this event was 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
Our event had two aspects: a continuing of spiritual care and support, and the opportunity to make a genuine difference to the community. Father Nadim taught about God’s treasures that lie within each of us (2 Cor 4:7-10) and how we can be the image of God's love in our lives. Huda led sessions on the practical and spiritual meaning of being an Ambassador. The young people prepared prayers and worship themselves, and we were hugely honoured when the Syrian Orthodox Bishop visited us one evening (pictured, in the centre of the second row, above); this was a great boost for us all, showing the Church's deeper recognition and support for our work. We should like to offer special thanks to Father Boulos Aleframi (pictured, below right); without his help, we would have been unable to have held this event.
In the main part of the event, the young people were split into groups of 15, and each group then chose two of their number to represent them. This was their first taste of democracy, and every person had the opportunity to put themselves in the spotlight, telling their peers why they would make good representatives.
Then each of the groups, led by their representatives, developed two peace-building projects. We gave them many questions to answer as they prepared their projects, such as project name, objectives, budget, implementation, and how to measure success. We then united the young Ambassadors for some more democracy: the group representatives campaigned for their own projects, before everyone voted for the winning two 2 projects.
We were amazed at the level of work the young people had put into their projects, every one of which was viable, practical and inspirational. The winners are:
Street children (age 5 to 10): a project to help Erbil's many street children, listening to them, providing them with food and clothing, and encouraging them to go back to school. They would not be given money as this would make the children a target of the many gangs.
First aid training: offering training for everyone. Medicine is expensive, and medical treatment difficult to obtain. The ready availability of trained first-aiders would save lives.
Next time, we shall begin to train the young people to become proper project developers.