Skip to comments.Iraq's Christmas Spirit: Fear (persecution)
Posted on 12/27/2004 2:39:32 AM PST by miltonim
Iraq's Christmas Spirit: Fear (persecution)
(CBS) Only a few Iraqi Christians showed up to celebrate Mass in Baghdad's churches on Saturday because of fears that Islamic militants could launch attacks to coincide with the holiday.
CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier, who is in the capital, says many locals were saying Friday's deadly tanker truck blast in the capital's Mansour section was really aimed at a church near where the explosion occurred, but the driver took a wrong turn.
Churches this year have announced that the traditional Christmas services will be canceled and replaced by brief early morning prayers. Receptions for parishioners and other festivities were also called off.
The holiday comes just five weeks before next month's key legislative elections, which insurgents have sought to disrupt with a series of bloody assaults across Iraq.
In Baghdad's predominantly Christian southeastern neighborhood of Karada, only about a dozen people showed up for morning Mass at the Notre Dame de la Deliverance Church. Plainclothes guards armed with guns stood outside the church.
Inside the church, apprehensive worshippers lit candles as priests gave communions.
Services in other churches in Baghdad also had humble attendance, and hotels and shops in Christian neighborhoods did not hang holiday decorations as they usually do.
Representatives of rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr visited a church in the upscale Mansour neighborhood in a sign of solidarity with the Christian community. Ibrahim al-Haidary, an al-Sadr aide, told the congregation that the group is willing to post its militiamen to protect churches.
Islamic militants have regularly targeted members of Iraq's varied religions, including the country's 700,000 Christians, in a bid to foment sectarian tensions and disrupt the reconstruction of the war-scarred country.
Churches were bombed in August, September and October, prompting many Christians to flee to neighboring Jordan and Syria. The August attacks hit four churches in Baghdad and one in Mosul, killing 12 people and injuring 61 others.
Looks like a scene out of "The Bell's of St. Mary's"
Diary from Baghdad
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Christmas in Iraq
Christmas is knocking the doors, So Im going to talk about Christmas in Iraq. Christians in Iraq usually celebrate Xmas and have a two day holiday which is 25th and 26th of Dec. their traditions is very similar to our Eid with few differences. they have Christmas tree with the usual decoration, they go to church for prayers and then start their Eid similar to us. Muslims and Christians visit each other in Eid (by the way the Christians called their Christmas, Eid too). Me and my husband usually visit our friends in Christmas and they visit us in our Eid too. they serve also our traditional Kulaicha besides some pastries just like us. my daughter have her share of gifts in Xmas too, and she always asks me why Santa doesnt come to our house too? and I dont know what to tell her, so I usually say that Santa brings your gifts and put them in our friends house so you can take them from there. For us we buy presents to our Christian friends when we visit them.
The Iraqis have strong bonds between them, in spite of religion or ethnic differences, we all work together, have neighbors from other religions, visit each other and respect our differences. my neighbors are shias, my best friends are Christians and Kurds and Im Sunni, but we all have good relations between us. Im afraid of those who are trying hard to tear us a part, for me I dont think they will succeed but Im sure they are from outside Iraq, and they want Iraq to separate into several parts or maybe drag it to civil war. In Iraqs history for the few past hundreds of years we had no problems with each other so I think those terrorists will lose.
Even in our holly book, the Quran clearly states that Christians, Jews, and us Muslims we all worship the same God (which in Arabic we call Allah), and believing in Jesus and Moses is one of the basic conditions of being a Muslim. The Quran also asks us to live in peace with them and work and eat their food and even allows Muslim men to get married from them so his children will be Muslims but his wife can stay on her religion. We have unfortunately many ignorant people that know nothing about Islam and talk in his name, and destroy Islams reputation to others. I quote an ayah from the Quran :
Lo! those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans whoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right surely their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. (albakara-62 )
Today I went to my parents house and I took my daughter to their neighbors house because they have a daughter in her age and she likes to play with her, the neighbors are Christians and they are the best neighbor a person can have.
I asked the mother if they will go to church in Christmas as they used to go every year, she said no with sorrow. She is afraid from attacking the churches in Christmas, but she said I know many will go what ever will happen since they will go to the house of God.
I really hated myself at this moment and I did not know what to tell her, I told her that not only you are targeted, look what they had done in Najaf and Karbala two days ago, they are trying hard to tear us apart, but I dont know who are they.
I felt so silly that moment. also today, my father told me that he is afraid from a civil war, he said that those who are doing these things they know exactly what they are doing. I tried to tell him its impossible but he said no, they will succeed in making a civil war and then divide Iraq to peaces. I still dont believe in this, The US will not allow this to happen because it will mean that they have failed in everything they fought for.
Well, this subject is supposed to be on Christmas but I want to clear few things to you, I dont know how much you know about us. Merry Xmas to you all, and I wish you a nice Xmas always
Iraq - 'The Past, Present and Future of the Cradle of Civilization'!
Happy Christmas and 2005 to the Iraqi Christians first and to all Iraqis and their friends.
Live From Dallas
How Christmas works in Iraq
Friday, December 24, 2004
American Christmas preparations are more simple than Iraqi preparations.
Most Iraqi Christians, Assyrians in special, would fast from December 1st until Christmas day. Almost every year, I fast the week before Christmas. Christmas feels different when I fast. Christmas in the Middle East is more spiritual than the commercial Western Christmas.
For at least two weeks before Christmas in Iraq, Christian families shop for koleicha (Christmas sweets) ingredients. Iraqi Christian women are so proud of their secret recipes to make the best koleicha. Ingredients would include white flour -- French white flour was always the best. Fillings include walnuts, dates and a special kind of filling made of butter, sugar, flour and special spices. Each woman has her own secrets on how to make the best dough for their koleicha and will not reveal it to anyone. Yes, it's a family recipe secret.
Now, you would think our mothers would settle for a pound or two of flour. Hell no. My mom's standard was 20-30 pounds of flour when we were still a big family. After my brothers and sisters left the country, my mom reduced her standard to 7-10 pounds.
To make all this amount of sweets you better have good friends and relatives to help you with your big koleicha day. This is how it works: friends and relatives that you could count on would decide a schedule, so you could help them the day they make theirs in return for their help to you. My task changed from one year to another. I always found the easiest task to do -- like cooking lunch for these hard working women. My mom -- being my mom -- would always keep the cooking sheets for me to clean after all is done. Great. I can't complain anyway.
The next episode is to give a plate of koleicha to your neighbors. If you are working, another plate goes to your colleagues at work. My Muslim friends would get their share too as I WANTED my share during their Eid. The postman and trash collector were always on our list of "who gets koleicha this year?"
This happened every year of my life -- even during worst years of Iran-Iraq war in Basrah. For Iraqi Christians, Christmas is not Christmas if you don't make koleicha.
The few days before Christmas are devoted for cleaning the house and putting up the Christmas tree. This part of Christmas is identical to Christmas in any other part of the world, except we don't exchange gifts. Good plan. You could keep your budget under control during Christmas.
The most popular Iraqi Christian food for Christmas is pascha. Well, this is one other food not easy to make and our mothers would not allow anyone to help them with preparing this meal, another family recipe secret.
Most people would go to the midnight mass, come home and break their fast with eating pascha. I think that's the best part of Christmas, and I really miss it. These masses are very long (about 2 to 3 hours). Me and my sister, who moved to America after she got married, would attend the last mass on Christmas day. This is usually the shortest mass. It has a disadvantage though. You can't eat your favorite pascha until you come back home from church. It is kind of a temptation so you would have something to tell the priest if you ever go to confession on Christmas day.
We have many churches in Iraq where Christian populations are high. In Basrah, we have two Catholic churches, Latins, Syrian Catholic and others have their own churches too. Baghdad has lots of churches as most Christians lives in Baghdad. Mosul, Dehuk, Sulaymania, Arbil and kirkuk governorates have their own share of churches.
Christians make 3% of Iraq's population. The most popular sector is the Chaldean Catholic church, which is a branch of the Roman Catholic Church.
The family usually gathers for Christmas lunch at the parents house. You would invite a family or two that would invite you for next Christmas lunch.
OK, now you think by this we're over with Christmas and could have some rest. No, so far we had "The Fellowship Of The Food". Playing next at a home near you, we have the sequel, "Return of The Christmas Visits".
Every Christmas, the parents would make sure they remember which families visited us first, and which families didn't visit last Christmas and were supposed to visit. People who visit includes best friends, family members, uncles, aunts and sometimes first cousins. This works exactly like Christmas cards work in Western countries. If someone visits you this Christmas, you return their visit this Christmas. If someone didn't visit you last Christmas, you actually don't visit them this Christmas. You have from Christmas day till 6th of January to finish this task.
Let me tell you, this is not an easy task if you have a big family like mine. I used to escape most of this exercise by staying home with my grandma, also to take care of any visitors while my parents are visiting other families.
Christian Iraqis in Australia haven't changed much of these traditions after moving to Australia except that Australian Christmas is during summer and pascha is not a favorable meal for hot weather.
So, anytime you think your Christmas is full of stress, just appreciate not living in Iraq were there are two many things to do.
I love Christmas in Dallas, all I have to do is buy gifts, wrap them, put them under the tree, attend Christmas mass and have dinner with my family-in-law. How hard is that compared to Big Fat Iraqi Christmas.
Have a nice Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah everyone.