01/15/2007, 00.00
IRAQ
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Chaldean Seminary and Theological University inaugurated in Kurdistan

After being forced to leave Baghdad, the Chaldean Church’s two educational institutions have reopened. Meanwhile the capital is being emptied of its Christians whose historic neighbourhood is presently in the hands of Sunni militias.

Ankawa (AsiaNews) – Erbil’s Chaldean bishop, Mgr Rabban al-Qas, told AsiaNews that the doors to the Chaldean Major Seminary and Babel College, Iraq’s only theological faculty run by the Chaldean Church, have reopened in Kurdistan after shutting down because of the growing insecurity in the Iraq. The two institutions were in fact officially inaugurated last Thursday after moving from Baghdad to Ankawa, near Erbil, in Kurdistan.

The reopening of the college was marked by a mass in the Mar Eliya Chaldean Church, celebrated by Mgr Jacques Isaac, rector of Babel College.

In addition to many faithful, Mgr Andraous Abouna, vicar patriarch representing the Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly who stayed in Baghdad, and Sarkis Aghajan, a Christian and finance minister in Kurdistan’s regional government, were present.

About 25 seminarians are registered at Babel College but there are many other students who are studying theology and philosophy.

Moving the two institutions was a difficult decision. It was made official on January 4 but had been expected for some time.

Abductions, assaults and threats to the Christian community in the capital convinced the Patriarchate first to shut both college and seminar down, then to move them.

AsiaNews sources in Baghdad, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that the Christians left in the city are poorest, those who cannot afford to move elsewhere.

“As for the rest, they have all fled,” they said. “Dora, the historic Christian neighbourhood is [now] in the hands of Sunni militias.”

Moving around the capital is increasingly difficult and dangerous. “If you try to go in or out of a neighbourhood you have to ask permission from militias who are in charge; otherwise you might end up kidnapped or killed.”

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