We took another weekend trip through Western Kurdistan, this time going all the way to the Tigris river. On the way there, we stopped in the city of Dohuk.
A view of Dohuk:
In Dohuk, we visited a local priest, who brought us into the parish sitting room, served us lunch, and told us about the local Christian community. Muslims are a majority in Dohuk and they have caused some problems for Christians. With the encouragement of their imams, some Muslims smashed Chaldean liquor stores last December. To prevent future attacks, the government now writes sermons for the imams. This suppression of religious liberty surprised me, though I suppose it is understandable. The Chaldeans face an even greater challenge than physical violence. Unemployment is high among Chaldeans, many of whom have moved to Kurdistan to escape violence in the south. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that most Muslims refuse to work with Christians, stifling their economic development. However, there is hope for the Chaldeans in Dohuk. They have a friend in the Muslim mayor, who quotes pro-Christian verses from the Koran and encourages Muslims to work peacefully with their Christian neighbors. In addition, our host told us that a planned sewing factory may alleviate unemployment.
Following our visit to Dohuk, we went to the Christian town of Dbuna (I'm probably misspelling it). The town is in a wet and green place amidst the dry and brown mountains of Kurdistan. A nearby river spills over into a swampy area full of trees. It was a nice change from the usual monochromatic color scheme of Iraq in August. As per usual, we visited the local church and listened as a local priest told us about his flock. Many of the people in Dbuna are farmers and the town has been famous for its watermelons for centuries. The people of this nice little town have had to suffer hardships. Like many tyrants, Saddam enjoyed uprooting communities and shuffling their inhabitants around. Under his regime, the people of Dbuna were forced to leave their homes. The townsfolk had to start over again when they returned, and much of their housing has been provided by the government.
Hanging out with a flock of goats and sheep in Dbuna:
(photo credit: Matt Lenzen)
It's great to see something green during the Iraqi summer:
Yes, that is a flashing LED light. I asked the priest what it was for, and was dismayed to hear that it is the sanctuary light. Whenever it is flashing, you know that disco Jesus is present in the tabernacle. After leaving the second church, we ate ripe grapes from the parish vineyard and watched the sun set behind the mountains. Our day was not over yet. We trooped into the bus and rolled out of Dbuna, and headed towards the Syrian border. Check back soon for my next post.
Catholic grapes are best kind of grapes: