Posted by: Fr Chris | December 22, 2010

Christmas In Iraq & Our Reception of Refugees

As you may know, Christmas will not be celebrated in Iraq, probably for the first time since the days when Saint Jude and Saint Bartholomew preached the gospel there and told of His birth. Even under the worst days of persecution, Christmas services were held in villages. But not now – al Qaeda’s threats have forced the Catholic and Orthodox bishops to order the churches to be closed, to tell parishioners to put away all decorations, even inside their own houses, and to stay home. A few Liturgies and Masses will be held in select churches behind newly built concrete walls and under the protection of armed soldiers, and for only a very few clergy and even fewer laypeople,  all to welcome the Prince of Peace.

Is this what our men and women have died for over there since 2003? To see the second-oldest Church on earth destroyed? Only the Palestinian – Syrian Church is older than that of Mesopotamia, and there will be no Christmas.

America Magazine (November 15, 2010) published an interesting statistic on what the USA has done for Iraqi Christians who are in panicked flight.  Out of a population of 1.5 million in 2003, there are probably less than 400,000 still living in Iraq, and many of those have abandoned their homes in the south and Baghdad for the Kurdish zone in the north. So out of 1.1 million Christian Iraqi refugees, the US has opened its doors to a total of 171 Chaldean Catholics, 6,017 other Catholics, 1,579 Orthodox and 14,962 people simply listed as “Christian”.  Our great nation has taken in 22,729 Christian Iraqis. What a Christmas gift for Presidents Bush and Obama to give to this ancient Church, which is being squeezed into extinction. How very sad.

I hope that the Prince of Peace can conquer the hardness of men’s hearts this year in a new and powerful way, and that our blessed Infant will open doors, convert terrorists, soothe fundamentalists, and bring us the peace we deserve and want. But leaders of church and state alike have to truly open themselves to Him and put an end to the useless political wrangling and the building up of hatred.  Our poor Jesus comes to us in simplicity: may we be simple enough to love Him and spread His message further.

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