The kindergarten that CSI supports in Bartella, northern Iraq, is now firmly established. This is very important, notes CSI partner William Warda, not least because the presence of the kindergarten encourages Christian families to stay on in Muslim-dominated Bartella.
The Dominican Sister Marie Joseph is grateful for the support. She originally opened the kindergarten in Bartella in 2013. But after the IS invasion, all the residents had to flee. A good six years after the terrorist militia was driven out of Bartella, the kindergarten is now well established with around 80 students.
CSI’s co-funding means that Christian children from poorer Christian families can also attend the kindergarten. “The parents don’t have to pay anything for it,” explains Warda. In addition, the children receive school materials and a warm meal.
The fact the kindergarten has been preserved is very important for the existence of Christians in Bartella, Warda says. Fewer of the Christians who fled from IS have returned than had been hoped.
Shiite Muslims of the Shabak ethnic group still call the shots in the once predominantly Christian town, and they are putting pressure on Christians.
“Our goal is for more Christian families from Bartella to return to their homes, and for the returnees to stay,” Warda says. The kindergarten is a good reason for Christians to believe in a future existence in Bartella.
Meanwhile, the situation in Bartella remains tense. Speaking to the Dutch church newspaper Reformatorisch Dagblad, Danial Kousay, a returned Christian, stresses that Bartella has transformed from a Christian town into a Shiite stronghold. “All social life, including the city administration and the police, is now dominated by Shiite Muslims,” he says.
That makes Christian institutions like the CSI-supported kindergarten all the more important in Bartella.