When I first sought refuge at the Monastery, Father Jens welcomed me. He never made me feel different because I am Muslim and it was never an issue for me that he is a Christian priest. We simply helped each other, like a father and his son.
Sami Juma Al-Ali was born in Mosul but currently lives in Sulaymaniyah, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. He is 23 years old and left his native city when Daesh took over and imposed its reign of terror.
Sami says: “We went into the darkest stages then. Not many people ventured out in the streets anymore. There was no freedom, everyone was scared of death, explosions… It was a life of captivity, where no one ever knew whether he/she would come back home or not. We were always scared.”
The youngster eventually made it to Suleymaniah, where he joined the Fursa project, and started working for the Fursa Youth Centre.
“The name Fursa (opportunity, in Arabic) was indeed an opportunity for me and for many other young people. The Fursa Youth Centre is like a window for me to see the world,” he adds.
As an employee at the Youth Centre, Sami coordinates all the people involved in the project and organises fun activities for the local and refugee youth. He teaches them audiovisual techniques and provides them with much needed opportunities to get to know one another and learn to live together peacefully.
Father Jens Petzold, from the Virgin Mary Church, explains the rationale behind the project and the activities carried out:
“We came for the inter-religious dialogue at first, but found ourselves in front of a humanitarian situation to which we had to respond. Our teachers of Kurdish classes, for example, are all Muslim. We have sewing classes, where Christian seamstresses teach Muslim women. So, on this very practical level, I think we stand perfectly in line with our vocation to bring people together.”