Got news? No midnight Christmas Mass in Iraq

It’s rare to find a major story that makes liberals as well as conservatives nervous to the point that they hesitate to talk about it. Stories of this kind often fail to find their way into digital or analog ink.

If reporters ask political conservatives what they think of the impact of the Iraqi war on religious minorities — especially the nation’s ancient and persecuted Christian and Jewish communities — the result is likely to be silence. This is one of the toughest elements of the conflict for many political conservatives to discuss.

Consider this Doonesbury cartoon strip from this week as an example of what this can look like.

But what about the left? Political liberals are also not anxious to discuss this subject, in part because it reveals the dark side of majority rule in this land and in other parts of the region. It requires reporters to focus on the violent actions of some — repeat, some — Muslims in Iraq who do not want to tolerate the freedom or even existence of despised religious communities.

Thus, we have a classic “Got news?” story, as we draw closer and closer to Christmas. Here is a Catholic News Service report with the key details (since this is clearly just a Catholic or “conservative” news story):

LONDON (CNS) – Chaldean Catholic officials have canceled traditional Christmas Eve midnight Masses because of security risks.

Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk in northern Iraq told the agency Aid to the Church in Need that Christians will spend Christmas in “great fear” because of the risk of new attacks.

All services and Masses have been scheduled for daylight hours, he said in an interview with Rome-based AsiaNews.

“Midnight Christmas Mass has been canceled in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk as a consequence of the never-ending assassinations of Christians,” he said, citing the Oct. 31, 2010, attack on the Syrian Catholic cathedral that left 57 people dead in the Iraqi capital.

Archbishop Sako also expressed concern over the growing conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims vying for political power. He said the conflict has led to growing instability, especially in the days since the pullout of U.S. military troops in mid-December.

And so forth and so on.

Now, it is possible that this highly symbolic and timely story is about to go live at CNN or some other high-profile site, drawing the attention of other news organizations. That could happen, as journalists look for Christmas stories to cover. That could happen.

But there is little sign of that online at the moment. Consider, for example, this typical Google search, which only finds a Washington Examiner blog item and some “religious,” and “conservative” news hits.

This is a rather obvious story, at this point. The Al Jazeera report at the top? It’s from last year.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Jerry

    This story talks about Christianity in the Middle East but not the specific story you mentioned.

    But the experience of political change for Iraq’s Christians is a reminder that democracy is one thing, but protecting against the tyranny of the majority is something else again.

    “Pandora’s box has been opened and everything has come out,” … “In those societies that have been authoritarian there is a big tendency for a tyranny of majority, for a while at least, when they change. Iraq is a very good example – suddenly there’s a tendency for [large groups] to grab the initiative and not to be thinking about the rights of others.”

  • MJBubba

    Thanks, Jerry. The Christian Science Monitor deserves a GetReligion thumbs up for that story.

  • Nancy Reyes

    another missing story: The invisible man(and woman): The one million foreign workers in Saudi who are Christian but are not allowed to have a church to worship in.

    some hold private worship services without clergy of course… LINK but it is almost impossible to find these stories, even here in the Philippines…

  • rob in williamson county

    Great stories (including both the CS Monitor and CNS)–they remind me that I should be extra-appreciative of my freedom to worship without fear. Thanks!

  • Jerry N

    While not specifically Christmas related, the Wall Street Journal had an article today on emigration amongst the Copts after the Arab Spring. The headline was below the fold, but some of the picture was above it.

  • Nancy Reyes

    the only google news story about Saudi’s lack of Christmas is here. Nope,no religion in it at all…
    This story from last year discusses a raid on a Catholic service, and this one is about a raid on Ethiopian Christians this year is from a Christian website that tracks persecution.

    Yet I’ve seen a half dozen stories on Filipinas in Israel this year, mostly negative…even though most caretakers there are well treated and they have religious freedom…

    The reporters talk to folks, but you know they could really get stories if they bothered to notice “the help”…

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Americans and our media forget how much our Founding Fathers feared both democracy and runaway governmental power — if neither were restrained by rational laws.
    Some Americans cheering the so-called “Arab Spring” don’t realize–or even care– that this “Spring” without rational legal (constitutional) restraints is, so far, nothing but a death sentence for thousands of Christians and members of other religious minorities.
    And, as has been pointed out time and again, our news media seems to show little interest in the dark side of the “Spring”–EXCEPT when Western media personnel are in danger. I have seen loads of stories of reporters virtually bragging about their courage in reporting about themselves and the risky job they have.
    However, I believe it was on CNN this afternoon that I saw a very good segment on what Iraqi Chaldean Catholics are suffering this Christmas.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Note–It only seems a few years ago the media was awash with the words “ethnic cleansing” over events in the Balkans– But now “religious cleansing” of Christians in the Middle East is rampant. Why isn’t the media awash with the words “religious cleansing?”

  • Jeffrey

    Unlike the Balkans, there isn’t genocide taking place nor the displacement of 500,000 people by religiously-targeted violence and killing.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Jeffrey–You haven’t apparently been reading the –admittedly hard to find– stories of the horrors being endured by Christians all across the Islamic world. As I write this another site is reporting on another–mostly ignored– slaughter by Islamist terrorists of Catholics in churches as they celebrate Christmas.
    As for the number 500,000 –more than that number of Iraqi Christians have had to flee their homeland for fear of being slaughtered by Islamists there. And what is it but religious targeting that Christians are suffering under while the world twirls its fingers–unlike what happened in the Balkans which was covered from wall to wall.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    Not just Iraq – Nigeria too. Here’s an AP report on the same events..

  • MJBubba

    Jeffrey, did you notice any mass media reports on the 70 churches that were burned in Ethiopia in the first half of 2011?

  • Jeffrey

    MJ, reporting on Africa is generally abysmal. How much coverage have you seen of war crimes charges in Ivory Coast, where Christian-led opposition groups attempted ethnic cleansing against the Muslim backers of the democratically-elected government? How much reporting have you seen on the role Christians played in keeping the Assad government in power in Syria?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Jeffrey–Christians struggling for religious survival and for their very lives are only too aware of what happens to minority religions in Moslem regions and countries all around the world.
    Consequently–wisely or unwisely- they frequently side with whatever groups or movements appear will give them the best chance to continue existing.
    One need only compare how Moslems are treated in America and Western Europe with the way Copts are treated in Egypt, Chaldean Catholics in Iraq and Iran, Christians in general in Pakistan, and in Moslem areas of Nigeria, etc. to see why some Christians may side with– by our cozy, safe Western standards— some pretty disreputable movements just in order to survive.

  • MJBubba

    Jeffrey, the events in Ivory Coast are horrifying, and they have gone un-noticed by our mass media. Christians had found themselves supporting Gbagbo for fear of the alternative. War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity have been cited on both sides. However, your charge that “Christian-led opposition groups attempted ethnic cleansing against the Muslim backers of the democratically-elected government” seems a stretch. Please cite a credible source.

    In Syria, Christians support Assad for fear of the Salafis. Per Deacon J.M.Bresnahan’s comment, consider that Christians supported Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Since the fall of that regime, over 100,000 Christians have been murdered, somewhere between 600,000 and 900,000 Christians have become refugees, and the rest live in fear.

    All this is to say that, though you may easily think that Christian-Muslim violence around the world is a net balance by reading our mass media, the truth is that the violence mostly comes from Muslims, and it mostly goes unreported.

    Finally, I concede your counter example from the former Yugoslavia, which is drawn from a long difficult history that reaches back for centuries and became muddled under the totalitarian Tito regime. In that case, America intervened to protect Muslim Bosnians from the Christian Slavs under Miloševi?. That one really was ethnic cleansing.

  • John Pack Lambert

    The claim that Christians have religious freedom in Israel is debatable. They are severly restricted in sharing their message, which is an essential tenet of Christianity.

    Also, acts of disrespect towards them by Jews are general not prosecuted even when they are criminal.

    I also wonder is it 50,000 Filipinos or 50,000 Catholic Filipinos. Many Filipinos are not Catholic, and I find it hard to believe all the Filipinos in Israel are Catholics.

  • John Pack Lambert

    Actually calling the Bosniacs “Muslims” and Milosevic’s followers “Christians” is misleading at best. It is Serbs and ethnic Muslims. The “Muslims” in Bosnia in general were not religious at all. It was an ethnic war, not a religious war. The Serbs and the Croats also went at eachother, and while you could see this as a Catholic verses Orthodox War, it was also an ethnic war.

    I wonder if some of the media reluctance to cover the non-mass in Iraq is fear of being seen to undermine Obama’s withdrawal policy and the false equation of the peace activists that US troops withdrawing will somehow majically create peace in a country with lots of people who want to overthrow the current government.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Bubba–Good factual comments–one might also note that most of the world considers America a very religious and Christian country. Thus one could fairly write in the media: “In that case, CHRISTIAN America intervened to protect Muslim Bosnians from the Christian Slavs under Milosevi”