Wednesday :: Dec 5, 2007

There really is a War on Christmas- in Iraq

by Turkana

The usual right-wing demagogues are already winding themselves into their annual pretzel postures of false outrage for being denied the right to use instruments of government to impose their religious rituals on those who do not so celebrate. Despite their hypocrisy, pseudo-sanctimony, and just plain cultural bigotry, there is actually a hidden kernel of truth in their simple-minded sloganeering. For there is an actual war on Christmas, and it is going on right before our eyes. But they don't see it, and they certainly wouldn't want anyone to talk about it, because it's taking place in Iraq, and it is the fault of their political hero, George W. Bush.

As the New York Times explained, in October 2006:

Christianity took root here near the dawn of the faith 2,000 years ago, making Iraq home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities. The country is rich in biblical significance: scholars believe the Garden of Eden described in Genesis was in Iraq; Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees, a city in Iraq; the city of Nineveh that the prophet Jonah visited after being spit out by a giant fish was in Iraq.

Both Chaldean Catholics and Assyrian Christians, the country’s largest Christian sects, still pray in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

They have long been a tiny minority amid a sea of Islamic faith. But under Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s million or so Christians for the most part coexisted peacefully with Muslims, both the dominant Sunnis and the majority Shiites.

One of the oldest Christian communities in the world, for the most part peacefully coexisting with its Muslim neighbors. And then came Bush.

But since Mr. Hussein’s ouster, their status here has become increasingly uncertain, first because many Muslim Iraqis framed the American-led invasion as a modern crusade against Islam, and second because Christians traditionally run the country’s liquor stories, anathema to many religious Muslims.

And the Times says the result has been threats, church bombings, kidnappings, and murders, with anywhere from tens of thousands to a hundred thousand fleeing the country.

In March of this year, USA Today reported:

The flight of Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Muslims from their homes under threat of violence has earned much attention. But Iraq's Christian community has also been targeted and is steadily dwindling as well.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says Christians comprise some 40% of the Iraqi refugees.

Other Iraqis who are forced from their homes often relocate to another city or neighborhood, but Iraqi Christians who have to flee often leave the country, said Dana Graber, an Amman-based officer with the International Organization for Migration. "They feel even more vulnerable because they have few, if any, safe communities to where they can escape," she said.

Long an integral part of Baghdad's diverse ethnic and religious communities, Christians have lived side by side with their Muslim neighbors for generations, said Abdullah al-Naufali, head of Iraq's Christians Endowment.

But as Iraq's violence flared after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, churches and Christian homes were targeted, al-Naufali said. Ten of Baghdad's 80 Christian churches have closed, and more than half of Baghdad's Christian population has fled, he said.

And the Associated Press:

The Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad, recently named Iraq’s first cardinal, said Tuesday that rising violence has made life worse for Iraqi Christians since the U.S.-led invasion.

But he is optimistic that “peace will prevail,” he said.

As any good leader would say. But the reality is this:

“Car bombs, roadside bombs, killings, assassinations. All of these things were not happening in the past. There was stability and security,” he said.

The Telegraph put it this way, in May:

Iraq's Christian community is close to extinction as thousands are forced to flee their traditional strongholds in Baghdad.... Priests claim that half Baghdad's pre-2003 Christian population - estimated in the hundreds of thousands - has fled or been killed. They also claim that the Iraqi government is failing to protect them.

And Paul Isaac, an American Assyrian Christian, and a leading campaigner for his people's rights, also in May, wrote this in the International Herald Tribune:

A militant Islamic group in Iraq recently issued a fatwa, or religious edict, to the Assyrian Christian residents of the Baghdad suburb of Dora: Convert to Islam within 24 hours, or face death. At the same time, Muslim neighbors were instructed, over the loudspeakers of local mosques, to confiscate the property of Christians and enforce the edict.

The majority of Dora's remaining Assyrians quickly fled. Since Bush launched the invasion of Iraq, more than 25 Iraqi churches have been bombed.

Several priests have been abducted and beheaded, one in apparent retribution for the pope's public musings about Muhammed and the nature of Islam in October 2006. In March, two elderly nuns were reportedly stabbed to death in Kirkuk. Several Christian women have been beheaded or doused with chemicals for failing to wear the veil. And last October a 14-year-old Assyrian boy was crucified near Mosul.

And the symbolism of that last atrocity could not be more powerful: a Christian child crucified, because of the hell Bush has unleashed on Iraq.

Assyrian Christians, the indigenous people of Iraq, the inheritors of the ancient Mesopotamian civilization and the world's earliest converts to Christianity, are at risk of being completely eradicated from their homeland.

In a case of tragic irony, the "liberating" international forces have done nothing to protect Iraq's Christians. Not wishing to admit the catastrophic security failure nor be seen as intervening on a religious basis, U.S. officials have simply stood aside and watched. The State Department's recent offering of 7,000 visas for refugees is not only woefully inadequate but will merely encourage the flight of Assyrians from Iraq.

Isaac pulls no punches. The U.S., he says, is complicit in the destruction of entire people. A people who were the world's first converts to Christianity.

And then there is this McClatchy Newspapers article, previously linked by Kos:

The Christian archbishop of Basra on Tuesday canceled the celebration of Christmas in that southern city to protest the deaths of a brother and sister, both Christians, as bombings and mayhem struck at cities throughout Iraq.

Archbishop Imad al Banna said Christians in Basra should still pray to mark Christmas, but should forgo such celebratory trappings as trees, gift-swapping and family gatherings to protest the deaths of Maysoon Farid, a 30-year-old cashier at a local pharmacy, and her brother Osama, 33. The two were found dead Monday night, dumped in a neighborhood controlled by the Shiite Muslim Mahdi Army militia.

So, when you hear the annual blather about the poor, suffering American Christians being denied by evil secularists the right to place religious displays on public property, or to pray in public spaces, keep in mind the victims of the real war on Christmas. A U.S. "president" who never misses a chance to tell us how religious a Christian he is, but rarely gives any evidence of Christian compassion, mercy, or piety, launched a very un-Christian war of aggression on a nation that had never attacked the U.S., had never threatened the U.S., and couldn't have made good on any threats even had it wanted to, and among the millions of blood-soaked victims have been some of the oldest Christian communities in the world.

For tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians- those lucky enough to have survived the carnage- there will be no Christmas at home, this year. They are the victims of the real war on Christmas, and the man singularly responsible for having launched it and prosecuted it is none other than George W. Bush.

Turkana :: 10:27 AM :: Comments (16) :: Digg It!