Iraqi Christian parents have expressed great joy about the opening of a Catholic kindergarten in Erbil, kindling fresh hopes for the survival of the Church in a country where the faithful have endured so much suffering.

The new playschool was created as an extension to Mar Qardakh School in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region with support from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Erbil became home for more than 125,000 Christians fleeing persecution by ISIS after the extremists seized the Nineveh Plains in 2014.

Admissions at Mar Qardakh School – opened by the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil in 2011 – have been on the rise, with increasing demand for a new building as the number of kindergarten-age children has grown.

The establishment of the kindergarten will free up space in the original school building, enabling the institution to take in more primary and secondary school pupils.

The construction of the playschool was “a dream come true”, according to Farah, the mother of a girl aged five.

Luma, another mother with a four-year-old son, told ACN: “The sheer joy and relief it has brought to our community is huge.

“It’s evident in the eager footsteps of my son and others rushing into the kindergarten with real joy.”

Economic hardship and high unemployment have been afflicting Iraq’s Christians, and education is key to enabling them to remain in their ancestral homeland by helping them gain skills that can lead to stable employment.

In a country where the Christian minority faces frequent discrimination and is often treated as second-class citizens, many parents wish to send their children to a school with a Catholic ethos.

Mar Qardakh School teaches pupils to live a Christ-centred life, equipping them to spread the Word of God and raise their own future children in the Faith.

Luma said: “It is wonderful to witness the dedicated teachers, their faces lighting up as they receive my child and other children.

“I know they will ensure that my son’s journey in the kindergarten will be filled with joy, learning and love.

“Thank you Aid to the Church in Need!”