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2014-02-21

ASIA/IRAQ – Decision to include Syriac and Christian religious education in 152 schools

Baghdad (Agenzia Fides) - The Iraqi Ministry of Education has decided to include Syriac and Christian religious education in the currucula of 152 public schools in the provinces of Baghdad, Nineveh and Kirkuk. The goal is to help preserve the Syriac language, the mother tongue of all Christian denominations that still exist in the Country, marked in recent years by a drastic reduction in numbers due to the surge of migration flows recorded after the fall of the Baathist regime. The 152 schools were selected based on areas of the Country where there is a greater concentration of Christian populations.
According to Emad Salem Jeju- director general of the Syriac Study Directorate - the schools selected enroll a total of 20 thousand students. The same Jeju confirmed that the Council of Catholic Bishops of Iraq has been working on developing a new curriculum for Christian religious education that will be issued next year.
Christians in Iraq belong to 14 different religious denominations. In some of the classes involved in the project, all subjects - and not only Syriac and religious education course - are taught in Syriac.
In August 2011, the Iraqi parliament had declared the opening of the General Directorate of Syriac Art and Culture. It represented the launch of several activities geared toward reviving the Syriac language. In Kurdistan, policies in support of the Syriac language had already been inaugurated in the nineties.
Recently, the Iraqi Parliament has also recognized Syriac and Armenian, among the official languages of the Country, along with the language spoken by the Turkmen. The law on the official languages was approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, January 7, and is the culmination of ten years of effort and mobilization for recognition at a legislative level already established by the Constitution, which guaranteed it as an expression of equality of rights exercised by all Iraqi citizens. In fact, until that moment, the only languages recognized as official by the public administration were Arabic and Kurdish .
Initiatives that favor the current use of the Syriac language were greeted with satisfaction by militant groups most committed to the defense of identity of the Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac populations, such as the Assyrian Democratic Movement. At the same time, it must be said that many Christian families do not speak the Syriac language fluently. This is why many Christian parents had been reluctant to have their children study Syriac at school. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 21/02/2014)

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