To tackle the issue of sectarianism, which is an ongoing problem in Iraq, UNESCO Chair at University of Kufa (Najaf, Iraq) in partnership with George Mason University (Virginia, U.S.A) and Rutgers University (New Jersey, U.S.A) worked together to create an educational program that seeks to improve interfaith relations between communities, especially among youth, which is needed to create a more peaceful future for the country. This program was sponsored by US–Iraq Higher Education Partnerships Program | IREX.
This project included youth based interfaith activities, and the creation of materials that aimed to minimize the appeal of extremism by increasing awareness of Iraq as a multi-faith society and by pulling together a community from regions where there is evidence of religious and cultural divide.
Youth who participated in the Interfaith and Intercultural Youth Camp came from various universities across Iraq. They were trained in practising religious pluralism in an environment where controversial topics relating to religion can be discussed in an atmosphere of respect.
Peace-building Projects with Students at University of Kufa
UNESCO Chair encourages our students to initiate peace-building projects, IREX youth leader Ali Hameed Issa and graduate from the English department at the faculty of Arts, combined his leadership skills and English Literature degree to motivate and teach students how to improve their linguistic skills and how they can use their degree for a greater purpose, he discussed how to use creative writing as a way to allow their imagination to come between their writing and the target subject to identify social issues in contemporary Iraq.
Students discussed the main problem of why students are not acquiring the English language and discussed how they could use language and social media to reach a wider audience to illustrate a real positive image of Iraq and not just a war torn, terrorist inflicted Iraq.
Students agreed to meet weekly to discuss issues and solutions, UNESCO Chair at University of Kufa, highly believes in developing students and encourages them to be active social citizens
SEMINAR BY STUDENT AT UNIVERSITY OF KUFA ON “THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN INTERFAITH DIALOGUE”
Noor Khuzaei a student from University of Kufa, is in her third year of her undergraduate degree, she also recently participated at the Interfaith and Intercultural Youth Camp, held by the UNESCO Chair at the University of Kufa in collaboration with IREX in December last year. She took the opportunity to communicate her experience with other university students and also discussed important matters such as the role of women in contributing to interfaith dialogue. She spoke to a group of female students at the Faculty of Arts and talked about her personal experience and impression of the youth camp project. The documentary film produced on this project was presented during the seminar.
IREX YOUTH PARTICIPANT CO-ORGANIZED EVENT ON “CULTURAL IDENTITY IN IRAQ”
IREX youth participant Ahmed Sabah and Noor Khuzai both students from the College of Engineering organized and cohosted a conference on cultural identity at university of Kufa on the 20th March 2017. The youth used their network contacts to create a meaningful event on interfaith and intercultural topics that are relevant to the current situation of religious conflict and the youth in Iraq.
Assistant professor Dr. Ali Naji who has contributed greatly to the cause of bridging gaps between disparate communities, encouraged the students to continue to participate and create projects related to celebrating cultural diversity, as this conference demonstrates that there is an interest amongst the youth for positive change in Iraq.
Iraqi Cultural Attaché Counsellor in UK, Dr. Hassan al-Alak discussed the importance of diversity in Iraq experiences from the west and their perspectives.
Ahmed also discussed his own experience on the field of peaceful coexistence that was a result of the Interfaith and intercultural youth camp
ARTS FESTIVAL AT AL-ANBAR UNIVERSITY
Tariq al-Hatemi, a youth participant from Al-Anbar University, collaborated with other students at his university and organized an arts festival and charity event. The objective of the event is to work with different students from diverse backgrounds to celebrate art and raise money for charity as a collaborative effort. Furthermore, on February 25th 2017, Tariq also proposed to the university to establish a section in the library that has a collection of books on diverse cultures and various books written about the nationalities and other religions which enhances the acceptance of the other.