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“There is no trust in our neighbors,” says Mr. Habib, who has a 6-year-old son suffering from cerebral palsy, requiring $60 every month for medical care. “If I had the means,” he says, “I would have left.”

For Mr. Habib and many other parents, the main encouragement for them to stay is the church’s strong commitment to the education of their children.

In the lively St. Paul Center for Church Services, hundreds of children come every day to take summer lessons in catechetics and Christian values, learn hymns and watch animated films about Jesus and the saints. The center, run by priests and young volunteers, also offers classes in music, computer literacy and English, as well as counseling and courses for young couples preparing for marriage.

“We focus on entertaining methods that foster cooperation among children,” says Father Ignatius, who manages Christian teaching for children, stressing the importance of such a program in encouraging the return of families, despite difficult economic conditions. Nearby, children participate in a group activity that tests their knowledge of the Bible in a playful environment.

“We need to plant the seeds of endurance and of Christian values in the hearts of our kids,” the priest explains. “They are the future.”

Educators are routinely trained to help tackle social issues that might affect youth, such as drinking and excessive online gaming.

Teaching is also the priority for the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, who reside in Qaraqosh at the Immaculate Conception Convent, a building from the 1960’s restored a year and half ago after sustaining heavy damage during the years of occupation and war.

“The psychological situation of our students is difficult,” says Sister Muntaha Hadaya, who teaches math at the Dominican Sisters’ school. She says instability and the lack of jobs affect the children’s morale.

“They need a lot of motivation, because the atmosphere in most households is depressing,” she explains. “Parents are constantly preoccupied with life’s many needs.”

The high rate of success of their students in official exams and the increasing demand for education have prompted the sisters to build a larger secondary school that will accommodate around 350 students. The new school will be equipped with laboratories and computer rooms.

But college education and securing jobs later on are the biggest challenges for Christian Iraqi youths.

Faten Butros, 24, is a fresh college graduate with a degree in computer engineering. “We, as Christians, work and fight hard to get a good education,” she says, reflecting on her difficult years in college in Kirkuk. In 2016, she had to hide with her classmates under mattresses in their dorm rooms when ISIS stormed the city. Despite the worries of her parents after she escaped that ordeal, Ms. Butros insisted on returning to her studies when ISIS was defeated. For months after that, she spent five hours a day on the road to get to school, braving many checkpoints.

Her sister, Rita, 21, is currently studying medicine in Mosul.

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