"Iraq is the cradle of human civilization and a beautiful country of rich cultural and religious diversity. For centuries, many ethnic and faith communities lived side by side in this land," the organizations wrote in their statement.
"However, in recent decades Iraq has suffered from war, insecurity and instability and, most recently, from the rise of ISIS. Such a sequence of conflicts has deeply strained relations between communities and damaged the country's social fabric."
"Meanwhile, a worsening economic crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is pushing many into poverty and depriving the government of resources needed to assist its own people," it added.
One way that Catholic Relief Services has been working to help rebuild devastated communities is through the Shared Future program, funded by USAID, which brings together youth from different religions to work together in rebuilding projects.
"I think it is a very interesting project because basically what we do is, in coordination with local religious leaders from different religions, we put together youth and let them analyze the common problems and come up with solutions and then we support the implementation of those solutions financially, technically, etc," Bernocchi said.
"And so these are joint initiatives that are really useful to reconnect people from different communities, because you know the problem is that ISIS had this hellish project to destroy diversity -- and diversity is the social fabric of this country."
The unemployment rate for young people in Iraq is estimated to be 36%, according to a report published by the Atlantic Council in February.
Low oil prices, government waste and corruption, and a poor security situation further hinder the country's potential for economic growth.
About 60% of Iraqi's population is under the age of 25. According to the report, "many of these young Iraqis are unemployed, or at least under-engaged, meaning that they are often impoverished, bored, and resentful. Many have been traumatized by nearly constant warfare."
The report said: "Years of conflict have significantly diminished educational opportunities, making many Iraqis unemployable even in trades, due to their lack of skills. There are likely not enough skilled Iraqis to take on technical jobs, should the need for these jobs increase."
Aid to the Church in Need announced on March 3 that it would be funding 1.5 million euros (around $1.8 million) worth of university scholarships for 150 students at the Catholic University in Erbil, which has students who are Christian, Muslim, and Yazidi.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Welcoming the scholarships, Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said: "We need to bring good news to the people here during the papal visit; to be able to announce the vision to have 1,000 students by 2025, giving us a significant voice and a clear future for our young people and their parents, brings great hope."