Books of  Reconciliation - Interfaith Cultural Cooperation in Iraq

Project location: IRAQ
Project start date: June 2012 - Project end date: December 2013
Project number: 2012-040
Beneficiary: Unponteper




The general objective of the project: '' Books of Reconciliation '', is to develop the inter-faith dialogue and the relationships among minorities as well as their acknowledgment in Iraq.

The dialogue among religious minorities has become a major concern for the Iraq stability and future. The process of reconciliation can be realised only by building up proper communication among the majority groups and all the other minorities. For this reason the intervention main goal is to improve the interfaith dialogue and the relationship among the minorities and at the same time to disclose their beliefs in order to reduce misbelieves and stereotypes toward them.

Specific objective: to favour the cultural cooperation among minorities together with developing their relations and possibility of exchanges among the different minorities' communities in Iraq. Culture can be a strong lien among the minorities which all suffered, especially in the past, of persecutions and cultural limitations, the idea is to use the safeguarding of their cultural heritage as a common ground to develop the cooperation among them. In this view the safeguarding of the minorities' books holding has seemed to be the right mean to achieve this collaboration. Books are not only the mean through out they expressed their beliefs but they contain all the historical minorities' background.

Detailed description of the activities implemented and methodology applied.


1.1 At the beginning of the project, key minorities leaders were identified and several visits were made in order to discuss the minorities' interest and commitment in the project's objective. In April 2012 the identified representatives of each minority were invited for one day orientation meeting in Erbil, during this meeting the project was presented to the 15 participants.

1.2 A research about Iraqi minorities' books and their heritage documents have been written, the researcher: Dr. Saadi Al Malih, concluded the research in the month of May 2013. UPP is currently working at the designing and typesetting. The research used different methodologies, from consultation of other academic texts to the direct interviews with leaders of the involved minorities. Visibility of NPF will be highlighted by posting logos and acknowledgments in the publication.

2.1 The assessment of the minorities' library and archives was realized with the support of two conservators' experts who assessed the book holding of the six minorities involved in the project. The two experts made recommendations on library technical needs and on the possible content of the foreseen trainings. The methodology used was based on direct observation of the minorities' library and interview with some responsible for the libraries.

2.2 The first training organized took place in Baghdad, was taught by I.N.L.A. Iraqi National Library and Archives, it lasted five days from the 24th to the 28th of February and involved 11 participants from six minorities : Chaldeans, Yazidi, Syriac Orthodox, Dominicans, Mandeans and Baha'i. The training curriculum, included:

- techniques used in preserving books and manuscripts;

- damages provoked by environmental factors: heater, humidity, light and by emergency situations like flooding, fire or wars;

- general information on book and manuscripts' restoration;

the methodology used included both theoretical notions and practical exercises.

The second training took place in Erbil, on the 23rd of May for only one day. It was organized by Un ponter per... at the Syriac Museum in Ankawa. The course was taught by two Italian conservator experts, Irene Zanella e Gaia Petrella, both have a long experience in teaching book's conservation and preservation techniques. The participants were the same who attended the first course in Baghdad, representatives of the six minorities: Chaldeans, Syriac Orthodox, Dominicans, Baha'I, Yazidi and Mandeans.

The course dealt with the following subjects:

- Book's constituent materials: paper, parchment, leather, inks;

- Most common mechanical and environmental processes and their damages;

- Environmental context and its influence on library collections.

The third training course took place in the Orthodox monastery of Mar Matti, near Bashiqa, in Nord Iraq.

This training was tailored on the needs of those minorities who posses manuscripts: Chaldeans, Dominicans, Syriac Orthodox and Mandeans

The program of the training included:

- a theoretical explanation on environmental condition: Temperature, Relative Humidity and Ultra Violet light.

a practical exercise on storage premises, shelves buffering and the correct handling of books and manuscripts;

- but also dusting and surface dry-cleaning;

- a particular attention was given to acid-free cardboard boxes and protective containers.

2.3 Un ponte per... has acquired the necessary equipment material for book conservation and we started to distribute this material to the minorities.The Syriac Orthodox has already received their material, the other minorities will receive it shortly.

Results obtained

The results achieved are reported in correspondence to the activities' number.

1.1 15 academic and religious leaders, representatives of different minorities have been involved in the project by Un ponte per... and at least one representative of each minority participate to the orientation meeting organized by Un ponte per ... to present the project.

1.2 A research on minorities book holding has been written and is ready to be Printed.

2.1 Libraries and archives of the involved minorities have been assessed by two books conservators specialists who identified the needs of each minority.

This assessment has been used also to realize appropriate training's curriculum which take into consideration the different needs of the minorities.

2.2 Three training courses have been organized, one in Baghdad, one in Erbil and one in Mar Matti ( Bashiqa). The number of participants has varied according to the type of training but all the participants of the six involved minorities have attended the courses.

2.3 The books' conservation equipment has been purchased and the distribution of it among the minorities has started.

Anticipation of the next steps and expected results

To complete the project the next steps and the relative expected results need to be taken:

1.2 The research will be printed and it will be presented during an international conference in Erbil (activity 1.3) which aims to promote the cultural heritage of the minorities and to lobbying the international and national community to support its safeguard.

2.2 Further training need to be implemented, especially for digitalization of manuscripts and books.

A special training will be tailored on the needs of the Yazidi community which has mainly an oral tradition, at this regard we are now planning the necessary work for the creation of a sound proof room that will be used to recording the Yazidi qawwals (oral prays). With the completion of these two courses and the donation of relative equipment, the minorities will be able to work on the conservation and preservation of their books holding and cultural heritage.

2.3 In relation with the activity 2.2 other equipment will need to be purchased for digitalization and for sound recording. Also some furniture will be necessary to donate to the minorities for their libraries.

3.1-3.2 These two activities aim to exchange books between INLA and minorities libraries or archives and among minorities libraries .

This action can be taken only after that the minorities will have digitalized some of their manuscripts.

All the reported activities have been implemented through the fundamental support of the minority expert, Ms. Roberta Paci, who proficiently supported the dialogue process favoring the exchanges among participants and coordinating the entire program.


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