Christmas for Iraqi Christians

Improved security in Iraq has meant many Iraqi Christians are coming back after fleeing their country and are practicing their faith openly, to the point of publicly celebrating Christmas, with the new Iraqi government going so far as to declare it a national holiday. From Greatest gift for Iraqi Christians — returning home – Los Angeles Times:

Hundreds of Christians gathered to celebrate Christmas in Baghdad, most acknowledging that improved security conditions have allowed them to move more freely throughout the city after returning from years-long exiles in Syria, Egypt, Jordan or Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region.

In the Christian neighborhood of Karada on Thursday, a Santa Claus handed out religious CDs and pamphlets, including “25 Stories From the Bible” and “The Greatest Gift.” In recent years, such an act could have resulted in death.

Christians are estimated to make up less than 3% of Iraq’s population of 27 million, and some reports say that about half fled after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the country.

On Thursday, at least 600 holiday worshipers packed the Catholic Church of the Virgin Mary in the Karada neighborhood, where a flashing red-and-gold Christmas tree adorned the altar.

Women came with their hair uncovered and were dressed in their holiday finest — festive red sweaters and skirts, bejeweled jeans and knee-high lace-up boots.

Father Boutros Haddad, the church’s priest, said he hadn’t seen so many worshipers in years.

“It’s been a long time since we felt happy like now,” Haddad said. “We are happy for peace. We are not happy only for Christians, we feel happy for the Kurds, Arabs, Chaldeans. We feel happy for everybody in Iraq because we are brothers. Let us pray for peace.”

For the first time in memory, the Iraqi government declared Christmas a national holiday. And last week, a community event was held at a park to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. Large posters depicting a portrait of Jesus and a Christmas tree could be spotted around town.

HT: Hugh Hewitt

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Joe

    That is good news.

  • Don S

    This is why we fought. May the freedoms which are being realized in Iraq spread into the surrounding region, so that our dear and brave brothers and sisters in Christ may also more freely worship their Lord and Savior.

  • Jon

    God bless them. And may they forgive the US, whose illegal invasion of Iraq all but decimated the indigeous Christian population.

  • rlewer

    Since Hussein broke the cease fire of the Gulf War completely and arrogantly how could the resumption of the war be illegal? When a cease fire is broken, war continues.

    Hussein was torturing (real torture) and decimating everyone who disagreed with him. How soon we forget.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@2), I’m happy for our Christian brothers in Iraq, but we (America) did not invade Iraq in 2003 to win religious freedom for them. May want to review the statements by those who led us to that war again.

  • Don S

    tODD @ 5: We fought the war for many reasons, which evolved over time. Chief among these reasons was the overthrow of an evil dictatorial regime which was a long term threat to America’s interests, and which had a long history of oppression and murder of its own citizens, as well as the installation of a democratic form of government, which holds the promise of much greater freedom for Iraqis. We celebrate the initial tentative success of this effort, and pray that freedom in this land continues to grow and prosper, and that democratic reforms take strong root in Iraq.

  • Jon

    The lie given to the American people was that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. When that falsehood was exposed, all sorts of rationales were offered. But the truth is, the US had no right to invade and destroy another sovereign nation. Every American who died or was injured there suffered for nothing. Their blood will be a terrible stain on this nation for the remainder of time.

  • Don S

    Yes, Jon, of course. Because the U.S. is pure evil and everything it does is wrong.

    Of course, that part about Saddam’s illegal invasion of Kuwait, its threats to Saudi Arabia, the U.S.’s successful defense of these nations, the terms of surrender by Iraq to the U.S., which included U.N. oversight of Iraq’s weapons industry, Iraq’s blatant violations of those conditions of surrender and U.N. resolutions — those mean nothing to you, I assume, because they don’t fit the meme of an evil U.S. and its evil invasion of a pure and righteous “sovereign nation”.


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