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December 25, 2004
While We Gather Around The Christmas Tree ...

... our brothers in Christ living in Iraq hide around theirs, afraid to demonstrate their Christianity or celebrate Christmas in public. The atttacks on churches by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has made the Chaldean and Orthodox communities in Iraq frightened into silence for this holiday season:

Huddled with his family around a kerosene heater, Sirab Suleyman, a 28-year-old Iraqi Christian, retreats into memories of Christmases past.

Before the church bombings, the threats against Christian businesses and the gathering exodus of Iraq's Christian minority, there was a time when Suleyman and his Muslim friends used to spend Christmas caroling in the streets, enjoying each other's company.

"Before the war, Muslims and Christians used to celebrate Christmas together," he said, as he rubbed his hands for warmth in his modest living room. "Muslims used to visit their Christian friends and greet them. It was a true celebration. That's over now."

Not all Iraqi Christians feel the need to hide their celebrations:

Sister Beninia Hermes Shoukwana, a nun who heads a public school near Palestine Street, has stubbornly refused to bow to the extremists. She's put up Christmas trees at her school and gotten her students to sing holiday songs.

Indeed, a number of Christians scoffed at the fears of their brethren.

Hendrawas Yunan Azar, a 74-year-old buying a Christmas tree on Arasat Street, said he'll attend mass with his sister, even though relatives of his died in a church bombing last summer. He's even bought a new set of clothes to celebrate the holidays.

"If we die in church, we will be like the saints," he said.

Let's pray that next year, the Iraqi Christians will celebrate Christmas without fear -- as will Muslims celebrate Ramadan, and Iraqis overall celebrate freedom without fear of terrorism.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 25, 2004 10:54 AM

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