Speaking of Iraqis
One opportunity I've had here in Damascus is to visit the students of the Iraqi Student Project, an effort to bring Iraqi refugees to the United States to get their college degrees. Most of the students have had their college hopes dashed by the war and corruption. ISP works with U.S. colleges and universities, including some smaller Catholic universities (though not some larger, more famous ones that might host the president in May, who couldn't seem to find the money), for tuition wavers. Local support groups then form to provide financial and emotional support for the student. Fourteen students started college this year, with hopes of more than 20 next year. One student already scored a full ride to Dartmouth on the strenght of his application alone. No need for a tuition waver there.
I got to sit in on an afternoon meeting of the ISP's writers' workshop, when the whole group of students applying meet to work on their English writing skills, both Muslims and Christians. In many ways it's an exercise in interreligious dialogue and friendship. Through all the sectarian troubles in Iraq, the kids, far from retreating into fear, have become fast friends and supporters of one another. If that ain't the work of the Spirit, I don't know what is.
They don't trumpet it, but ISP was founded just two years ago by two Catholics who have long been involved in peace and justice work, and they've called upon their friends among Catholic Workers and other social justice folks from other traditions to support Iraqi students in the U.S. To my mind the project really embodies the best of the social justice tradition of our church. May we all be as creative in seeking peace and reconciliation.
Learn more about the Iraqi Student Project at their website: iraqistudentproject.org.