Father Araam describes his country as a mosaic.
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Here I was interviewing Father Araam Romel Qia in his church in Batnaya, Northern Iraq. The town had been taken over by ISIS during the war and the church was nearly destroyed. You can see the altar in pieces around him. Religious statue were shot apart and beautiful mosaic burned.
Yet these people remain faithful and full of hope. Hope that they can stay in a land where their ancestors have lived for thousands of years. On Easter Sunday that church was packed.
I sensed no discrimination toward others.
“Let us say we are like a mosaic. Every part of this mosaic is very important… We are one country”
You may read more about my time there in an ARCH International blog post. Here is an excerpt.
“Kathy recalls a conversation on a rooftop in Alqosh with Father Araam, his brother Arwen and their old friend Rayan, both of whom live abroad and were visiting for Easter. They looked out at the landscape to where the Peshmerga at some point in the recent past was battling ISIS fighters.
The conversation turned to the extremely ancient and rich culture of the region, the artifacts and relics that have been destroyed. They lamented how this barely made the news, how Nôtre Dame was prevalently covered but some of the lost sites in Mosul are still only known to experts working in the field.
The memory of standing on the rooftop is still vivid and feels very palpable. This was when Kathy realized why she values her trip so much and why she cannot put her camera down, wherever she goes. When people ask “are you documenting this?” she wants to be in the position of saying, yes, very much so.
Here on the rooftop is where she realized that if the people of Alqosh who took her in and treated her with such kindness, feel like their story isn’t being heard, then she wants to help tell that story—the Christian story, the Jewish story, the Kurdish story, a story of hope. Right in the heart of Christianity in Iraq, she observed a powerful connection of the people to their ancestral homeland. This is a region where the people’s ancestors have their roots in a time before recorded history.