I spent the month of April in Iraq, friend. It’s likely I was the only person from New Jersey working in the northwestern part of Iraq this spring. I was in Nineveh: city of biblical fame and once capital of the historic Assyrian Kingdom that boasts the invention of siege towers and love songs. Today, Nineveh is a province in the 90-year-old independent Republic of Iraq. My father’s homeland.
To be in Iraq and witness the destruction, not of ancient Assyria, but of today’s cities of Bakhdeda, Mosul, and Shingal was heart-wrenching. Competing interests and invaders over the past 30 years, including Iraq's Baathist regime, the US-led coalition forces, and the assault of ISIS, have left much of this region a rubble. Diabetes and high blood pressure plague the population, along with trauma associated with surviving intended genocide.
Despite deprivation, desolation, and danger, the people I met were kind and welcoming. I was surrounded by a generosity of goodness in the concrete block homes and shrines of Ezidis on Mount Shingal, in the streets and churches of Syriac Catholic Bakhdeda, and at the Mosul Heritage House. People are affirming the culture and heritage that serve as instruments of healing and anchor expectations for a better tomorrow.
While I was away, I couldn’t help but think about you, too. Thank you for your interest in and support for our work. When the going got tough, you kept me going. Check back next week for a closer look at my time in Bakhdeda.