ENTRE DEUX RIVES
the pathway between France and the East
INTERVIEW WITH EPHREM AZAR
Dominican father, Anthropologist, Religious Historian, Psychotherapist and Iraqi National
Why do we need yet another association to help the persecuted minorities in Iraq andrestore the inter-religion educational dialogue?
With some friends, I recently founded the Entre Deux Rives Association, the pathway between France and the East.
I am a Dominican Priest, anthropologist and religious historian. I was born in Iraq in Qaraqosh in the Nineveh -Mosul province where myparents, brothers, sisters and cousins all lived. Like the majority of the inhabitants of the Nineveh plain and Sinjar, all the Christian, Yazidis and other minorities had to fleeat short notice to the Kurdish zone.
I couldn't just sit there with my arms folded and watch this theatre of genocide. Theheart of my people was being rippedout. For populations like this it's a choicebetween a suitcase or a shroud! I was transfixed by the looks on my countrymen's faces. On the nights of the 6th and 7th of August 2014, 45,000 inhabitants of Qaraqosh –a town populated mainly by Christians - had to flee for their lives towardsKurdistan. (Check out Bakhdida on your
computers). Imagine the situation in therefugee camps, the utter despair of a displaced population. These people are terrified about what will happen to them now and in the future.
We understand your compassion and your will to fight against this human tragedy but how will your Entre Deux Rives
Association make a really significant contribution tothe restoration of cultural and religious freedoms in your country?
This Association is a diagnostic tool, a means to an end. I spent the first 26 years ofmy life in Quaraqosh, Mosul and
Sinjar. My upbringing and education, like most of the inhabitants of this region, was based on respect for everybody.
The intercultural dialogue between the different communities of the Christians, Muslims and Yazidiswas the glue that
held us together and gave us life and a good one at that!Intercultural dialogue takes place through interaction, culture
and education. The Entre Deux Rives Association is an initiative to reinstate this happy co-existence.
So this is the concept that the Entre Deux Rives Association will promote. Please tell us your prime objective.
The Entre Deux Rives Association's objective is to mobilise cultural awareness through education and to
reestablish an intercultural dialogue between East and West, between the shores of our two continents with particular
emphasis on Iraqwhere these shocking events are taking place.
That's all very well. We can see your good intentions but what do you and your team actually hope to achieve in reality ?
We will certainly be doing more than giving uplifting humanitarian speeches or standing around as interested spectators, inactive on the sidelines; by anybody's standard, ethnic cleansing and religious genocide is taking place in these regions.This is unacceptable and inhumane. We cannot stand by.
This is why we have resolved to conduct our activities in this region in a measured, focused and determined manner. The future of these persecuted minority peoplepromises nothing but a choice between leaving or death in a concentration camp. There have been hundreds of deaths in the Mosul and Sinjar regions. Four thousand women have
been abducted, raped and sold into slavery. Children are abandoned,left to their own devices without any care, or any hope or possibility of education.
Father Ephrem, please tell us what your projects actually entail ?
Everything starts with the family and education.
Education is the path to liberty and the first step towards democracy. Education, free from obscurantism, confronts ignorance and seeds the struggle against the barbarian hoards that devastate the country (Daech, AlQaida)
smothering life from the verybeginning of childhood.
They despise the arab-muslim and Christian cultures. Weshould not forget that the Christians were here long before
the Muslims. Our first project is to build a school with no confessional adhesion.
For every human, their family should be the source of love and security. Unfortuantely, the reality for refugees is often very different. Sanitary issues are also vital and must be prioritised. A reasonable standard of health is essential to be able benefit fully from both formal education in the school as well as within the family.
The second project is to open a hospital and an orphanage dedicated to providinghelp for everyday problems, emergency care provision and on hand in high risksituations such as epidemics. Our priority is to help both mother and child regain their human dignity and their right to education. I have personal knowledge of the Yazidi community and know them well having lived amongst them for four years as a youngpriest in Sinjar town where all three communities of Yazidi, Christians and Muslimslived happily together.
Have you got a location in mind, a place to do this?
I have visited the area many times to assess and evaluate the situation and decide where assistance is most urgently needed. The Entre Deux Rives Association's three construction projects ( school, hospital and orphanage) will happen in the free zone on the Mosul plain.
We have had no trouble in finding willing hands to help launch and develop these projects.
I'm due to return to Kurdistan on the 18th of March with a lorry loaded with clothingand toys. I will meet with my
displaced Iraqi friends and find a way with them to facilitate a return to Qaraqosh, to the villages of the Mosul plain.
We are not playingthe barbarian's game we are not afriad to go back.
Alongside me there will be avolunteer reporter and photographer who will be able to give their independent account of the state of play there when we return to France. This situation report (SITREP) will be essential
to clearly identify the immediate needs of the situation and the paths we need to follow to fulfil them.
The social objective of the Association is to bring aid to the refugees and to promote the intercultural dialogue between the Muslim, Christian and Yazidis communities whocurrently live alongside each other. Our initiatives aim to help persecuted minorities,irrespective of religious faiths; we believe that the future and hope for the Middle Eastlies in these minorities and the diversities they exhibit. The Association will foregroundintercultural dialogue, particularly amongst disadvantaged children to enable them toattend school and learn to realise that education is the first step on the path tofreedom. In the province of Duhoc in Kurdistan out of 76,000 refugees of school age,31,000 remain without schooling. I believe that democracy can only come aboutthrough education, not by coercion. The Association will offer practical, essential toolsto help the reconstruction of the villages and towns of the Mossoul plain.
So, to sum up Father Ephrem, what do you need from us to enable the Entre Deux Rives Association to bring these health and education projects to these persecutedpopulations.
What I need, or more precisely what these desperate people need, is your support and your prayers.
By donating 50 Euros to the Entre Deux Rives Association you will be providing a mother and her fatherless child with primary or secondary education. You will receive a receipt that confirms your donation and testifies to the humanitarian objectives of the Association. This should enable you to deduct all or part of this donation depending on the laws of your taxationdomicile. (20% of your taxable income and 75% of the total of your wealth tax as stated in articles 200 and 238 of the General Tax Code))
And one last word?
The spirit of freedom is destined to win the war against these faceless, nameless people. We do not submit to aggression.
Above all, freedom is giving human dignity back to these refugees. Freedom meansaccess to education. I emphasise the fact that absence of confessional status is not contrary to our heritage or to our cultural and religious roots in the Middle East. (Arab,Kurd, Christian and Muslim). I am not talking about persuading or forcing anyone to change their faith. On the contrary, I am opening the frontiers of discussion to restart the intra-community dialogue.
These projects have been judiciously conceived. Your donation will enable us to act immediately and restore liberty, which in Iraq has long since not been the case.
We estimate that we need 200,000 Euros. We will keep you informed at all stages of our efforts to bring relief to this region and to prevent the waste of an entire generation.
I thank you with all my heart on behalf of the Association for your generosity.
My warmest thanks to you all.
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The pathway between France and the East
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