“Christmas” in Iraq
By Layla Anwar
December 25, 2009
The Christians of Iraq have had it REAL BAD since 2003. They have had it as bad as the Arab Sunnis, this group that has seen its population dwindle in Baghdad alone from 45% to around 15 % due toÃ‚Â ethnic cleansing, torture, arbitrary arrests, exile and targeted killings.
The number of Christians in Iraq has also dwindled to a mere 400,000 left. Many were killed, and a whole lot exiled… They have had their clergy assassinated, their churches bombed and have been excluded from important posts in the sectarian Shiite government put in place by none other than a so-called Christian superpower – the swamp of criminality and filth called America and not so great Britain.
There are virtually no Christians left in Iraq. They were the first inhabitants of this land and the first community of people to receive the message of Christ and embrace Christianity. The Chaldeans followed by the Assyrians are one of the most ancient Christians of the Middle East.
There are only a very few Christian families left in Southern Iraq, a handful in Baghdad, and those in the North, like the Nineveh province, where the majority of Chaldeans live, are being evicted from their homes, harassed daily, killed and pushed into exile.
Only yesterday, 2 churches in Mosul have been bombed again and the Archbishop of Mosul has not ceased sending out messages to the puppet governmentÃ‚Â with “please save us”, “please protect us”….
Many Iraqi Christians lay the blame on the puppet sectarian government and on the Kurdish warlords for their plight. And rightly so.
The Christians of Iraq have never experienced a level of discrimination, harassment and violence like they have since 2003. It is truly unprecedented.
And each time I hear of one more attack against the Iraqi Christian community, my blood boils with rage and my heart breaks with more sadness… and in my mind the major culprit remains that piece of shit called America.
I am no longer into Christmas myself. I used to buy a tree and decorate it, visited family and friends, bought presents and sent cards… not anymore. The same applies to the Muslim Eid. All these festivities have become devoid of meaning for me.Ã‚Â I go through the motions on each occasion but inside I feel nothing…
I feel nothing because there is no longer a sense of community, and even those of us in the diaspora of the mass exodus, are having a very tough time re-creating it.Ã‚Â Our families are split apart, dispersed, some have been imprisoned, some tortured, some kidnapped, some in need, some killed… and around these “holiday” seasons, the sore wounds re-open, glaring us in the face…
Yet, as an act of defiance, my family insisted on having the traditional Christmas eve dinner. So I went along with it…I ate and watched TV. That was my Christmas eve.
I zapped and zapped to the annoyance of everyone else and stopped zapping when a whole mass ceremony was aired live from Iraq on Al-Sharqiya TV, who dedicated this whole evening to the Christians of Iraq. I was most pleased with this TV station for doing so.
I love listening to the liturgy in Arabic mixed in with some Aramaic. Mass usually puts me to sleep but not this kind of mass. I watched eagerly the faces of those seated. What they were wearing, their facial expressions, the look in their eyes, any sign for me to interpret…
The women had their best clothes on, most had their heads covered with a thin veil made of dentelle, and they sat separate from the men, on one aisle, while the men, mostly in suits, sat on the other…I noticed they were fewer men than women and the men all seemed to be either above 55 or below 20. In other words the age group of 20 to 50 were absent. I wondered what had happened to them…
It was a Chaldean mass. The bishop had to borrow St John the Baptist church from the Assyrian community to conduct this Christmas eve mass and it was in Erbil, Northern Iraq.
The commentator said that in Baghdad and Mosul, the Christians were keeping a low profile this Christmas, “out of respect for Ashurra”. Ashurra is the month that commemorates the killing of Imam Hussein and is considered by the Shiites as a month of grieving and “repentance”, accompanied by the traditional self flagellation….
Since when do the Christians of Iraq stop attending Christmas eve mass because of Ashurra ? This is unheard of before… Clearly, they feel threatened enough not to conduct mass on Christmas and in an act of self protection they have abstained from celebrating the birth of Christ.
The priest then gave a short sermon/speech, praying for all those who were killed, and all those who could not attend because they did not have the means to travel to Erbil, and all those who are not being employed because of their faith and all the students who have been kicked out of schools because of their faith…He prayed that Allah guides those responsible, he also said that Christmas is not about eating and drinking, and buying and celebrating, Christmas is about contemplating what Allah’s message to the world is all about with the virgin birth of Jesus.
The priest used the word ALLAH, and asked Allah to protect the Christians of Iraq, all believers and Iraq herself.
I am stressing on the fact that the priest used the word ALLAH, because a lot of westerners are totally ignorant about Arab Christians and their use of the language when it comes to God. They think ALLAH is only the God of the Muslims – which of course is absolute nonsense.
Listening to this mass and the sermon made me even sadder…
Memories rushed before my eyes, and I remembered my grandmother with her veil and rosary and my grandfather and many others…and I remembered our gatherings, the warmth, the joy…the meaning…the love.
I also remembered Tariq Aziz, the loyal, righteous, faithful, kind man who is still in an American jail in IRAQ, very ill, and now in his 70′s. I remembered him and his family in exile. And I don’t know if they read me or not…but if they do — know that I have not forgotten you.
And I felt the irony, the derision, the utter hypocrisy of the West…the Christian West who through its occupation crusade has totally devastated the first Christians of this world, the Christians of the East, the Christians of Iraq.