Religious from Iraq start at ACU

739192.jpgChaldean deal: At Brisbane’s ACU campus are (from left) Alan Druery, Associate Professor Nasir Butrous, Chaldean Sister Azhar Koka, Fr Gerry Hefferan, Franciscan Sister Pauline Robinson, Chaldean Sister Samar Mikha, Associate Professor Lindsay Farrell, Josephite Sister Moya Campbell, representing Catholic Religious Australia (Queensland), and Holy Spirit Sister Bernadette Edgecombe
TWO sisters from the Chaldean Con-gregation of the Daughters of Jesus’ Sacred Heart have recently arrived in Australia as part of the Holy Spirit-Chaldean Partnership, a program to enhance educational opportunities for the Chaldean community in Iraq.

The aim of the project is to develop the two sisters into leaders in education for the refugee community, by helping them improve their skills and qualifications by undertaking a Masters in Education Leadership at Australian Catholic University (ACU) in Brisbane.

Sisters Samar Mikha and Azhar Koka, from the Chaldean Congregation, said they were thankful for this opportunity.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to be here in Brisbane to exchange cultural, historical and educational experiences between Iraq and Australia,” Sr Mikha said.

“The world is faced with violence, poverty and lack of respect for the dignity of human beings; we are here to face these challenges by seeking knowledge, strengthening our faith, and working together for a better and brighter future,” Sr Koka said.

Associate Professor Nasir Butrous, from ACU’s Brisbane campus, said it was a great partnership and opportunity to improve people’s lives.

“I am delighted the sisters have finally arrived,” Prof Butrous said. “I hope their time in Australia is useful and blessed.”

The sisters will be in Brisbane for about three years, and it is hoped that once they have finished their study, they will return to their community and take up leadership roles.

The partnership is a collaboration between ACU, the Holy Spirit Sisters, Catholic Religious Australia (Queensland) and the Chaldean Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus’ Sacred Heart.

The project had its origins in a visit by Brisbane priest Fr Gerry Hefferan to Iraq in 2009 when he met and held discussions with Redemptorist Father Bashar, who is now Archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, and who was seeking assistance for the Chaldean community in Iraq which has been subjected to various forms of persecution and displacement under the Saddam Hussein regime and following the Iraq war.

Archbishop Bashar appealed for educational opportunities in Australia for a small number of the Chaldean community who might then return to Iraq to take up leadership roles in their own communities.