On Thursday, November 18th, The Return Festival, the first gathering of its kind, took place at Babylon studios in Ankawa. Catholic University in Erbil students and faculty proudly participated and volunteered at every level. The event celebrated the beginning of the return of Christians to their lands and to their homes, and celebrated a return to hope.
Instead of heartbreak and tears, sounds of laughter and joy filled the air in grateful acts of praise and worship—and hope. Some assembled media messages from well-wishers around the world, others generously served up plates of delicious local food, while others served up smiles and friendship. One CUE student organized the release of balloons filled with messages of encouragement and love. And still others sang stirring hymns of praise, while others defiantly carried the names of their villages in their hands in and in their hearts~ never to be forgotten; always to be honored.
Ghassan, a CUE student from Qaraqosh and a volunteer at the event, was very touched by the festival, “I was almost crying twice, once as I was one of the people holding up the boards with the names of our villages written on them, and another time when Bishop Nicodemus of Mosul said about us, ‘these people are Christian youth and they will contribute in our Return’.
Tamara Zúñiga-Brown, a teacher at CUE, participated with a positive message of hope, “it is to bring hope through education and the Holy Spirit and with God to bring us the grace and strength that we need”.
All were united in a message of hope. Hope to be able to return to their homes and families. Hope to be able to rebuild from ashes, devastation, and pain. All were united with the kind of strength that can only be found in the beautiful grace of God. It was The Return Festival: a chance to stand strong together and celebrate a return to life and a return to hope.