In our family we have made it a priority to learn about and pray for the Global Church. When we learn about how other people and cultures celebrate Jesus, it expands our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus, and broadens our understanding of God. In teaching and praying with our littles we like to find interactive ways of showing them the culture. As we pray for Iraq we have enjoyed exploring the art, language, stories and food of the beautiful Iraqi church. Below you will find resources and tools to help your family cultivate your own prayer time.
Who is the Iraqi Church?
The Church has been in Iraq since its very beginnings. In fact, Iraq contains more Biblical history than any other country outside of Israel. Most Iraqi Christians are Assyrians (Syriac) or Chaldean. Syriac Christians worship in Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke!)
After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Church in Iraq experience persecution. Christians were forced to pay a tax, deny their faith, or face death. This caused many to flee, and many Christian villiages were attacked an destroyed. However, in recent years the situation has improved, and some Christians are returning to their homes to rebuild.
My First Holy Qurbono Words for Children: From the Orthodox Divine Liturgy of the Aramaic Syriac Tradition is a beautiful book for helping littles explore the faith traditions of the Syriac church. It walks through the rituals of a Syriac Orthodox service, naming each portion in English, Malayalam (the language of Syriac Christians in India), and Aramaic (the language of the Syriac church of the Middle East). All elements are then described in English and accompanied by a photo.
Arts and Culture
While we pray, we like to learn about the people and culture we are praying for. And with littles, there is no better way to learn than through play.
Assyrians are an Iraqi minority group that makes up the majority of Christians in Iraq.
The Assyrian Cultural Foundation is an excellent resource for learning more about Assyrian culture. They have an excellent collection of craft ideas for exploring Assyrian history and culture with children.
Though Arabic is the official language of Irac, Syriac Christians worship and speak Aramaic. Jesus spoke Aramaic, which becomes and extra fun tie in for littles. When we explore this language we are not only learning more about our brothers and sisters in the faith, but about Christ. There are two organizations I have found that are working hard to preserve the Aramaic language and provide resources for teaching littles.
Rinyo Tunes has a YouTube Channel full of Aramaic videos to help littles learn basic words and phrases in Aramaic. They also have an Aramaic Alphabet Coloring Book that goes along with the videos.
Bet Kanu is another organization with an awesome YouTube Channel as well as language learning programs for both children and adults (this looks like an awesome resource for homeschool families).
For our language exposure we kept with some of their more basic videos that really anyone can enjoy.
Hola, Hola in Aramaic : This was fun, because they translated a traditionally Spanish song into Aramaic. This was such a joy for my Spanish-dominant preschoolers. So often when going on these language-learning journeys we find resources that were originally in English translated into the target language. This was so cool to see a song in our home language translated in Aramaic.
Aramaic Freeze Dance: who else has a little that loves to freeze dance? Why not change it up and play in Aramaic. This takes limited skill, and this video makes it super easy. They have little aliens dancing along. So just follow their lead. When they dance, dance. When they freeze freeze.
‘Allalaye’ Assyrian Folk Song: Finally Allalaye is an Assyrian lullaby that is hundreds of years old. It can be a fun experience to listen to this folk song while watching this animated version.
A couple of extra fun language tools we found were a collection of Assyrian Children’s Songs on Spotify. I have found with my littles, as long as it has s good beat they don’t really care what language the song is in. Try giving a listen and dancing along. We also found an Assyrian Alphabet Wood Puzzle. This is such a treasure. If you are considering the Bet Kanu language programs for your homeschool, you will definitely want to pick up this puzzle.
What cultural learning is complete without tasting some food? Hilda from Hilda’s Kitchen is an Assyrian food blogger. I found her while searching for a Kileche recipe after seeing the food referenced in our Big Book of Christians Around the World. She has a large Collection of Assyrian recipes on her blog. We tried her stuffed dates recipe for a simple after school snack, and they are delicious. Even my picky eater asked for more!
We picked up some fantastic story books about Iraq from our local library. These are my top picks we found and chose to share because they do a good job celebrating the beauty of Iraqi culture and people, while also holding the tension of some of the countries struggles in a gentle way for small readers.
- Remembering Mom’s Kubbat Halab: A young Iraqi immigrant misses her mom, and the way her mom used to make her favorite food. The book never explicitly shares how they lost her mom, but it’s clear she has passed away and the family feels her loss, especially at meal times. Together they work through their grief by sharing experiences.
- Zaha Hadid: Zaha Hadid was a world renowned architect from Iraq. Share her story with your littles.
- The Golden Sandal: Cinderella is a story that has been told around the world, with each culture offering it’s unique twists. This is the Iraqi version of the tale, and it is just delightful. A fun adventure for littles who love fairy tales.
- Lost and Fount Cat: this is the true story of Kunkush, a cat from Iraq who lost her family while fleeing the country, but through the help of community and strangers, was finally reunited.
- Countries We Come From: Iraq : An easy reader textbook showing photos and facts about Iraq.
While praying, doing our activities, or snacks we like to listen to Christian music from the culture we are praying for. This Syriac Orthodox Hymns playlist on Spotify was a win over here.
Things we are praying for our brothers and sister of faith in Iraq:
-Peace and restoration for Christians working to rebuild their churches and homes.
-Pray God would show his love to the people of Iraq.
We keep it simple over here, because we are praying with small children. Will you come pray n’ play with us?