Iraqi Christians and Muslims against grand mufti’s words of hatred and divisions

c93b2dae-f94f-4230-a16a-33c9434b9dc3During Friday prayers, al-Sumaidaie said that it was “impermissible” for Muslims to celebrate Christmas or New Year. The Chaldean patriarch slammed such “rhetoric of hatred” that sows “divisions”. In his New Year message, he calls for openness and deeper sharing.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Iraqi Christians and Muslims have reacted with outrage to a statement by Iraq’s Grand Mufti Abdul Mehdi al-Sumaidaie, who recently said that it is “impermissible” for Muslims to celebrate Christmas and New Year since they are Christian holidays.

Al-Sumaidaie is one of the country’s most important religious figures and has close ties to the government. The controversy began last Friday, following his sermon at the end of Friday prayers in a mosque in central Baghdad. In it, the prominent Sunni cleric urged Muslims not join Christians on their holy days, noting that those who do so “believe the Christians’ religious doctrine.”

The mufti adheres to a particular brand of Islam that is inspired by Salafism. His views have incensed many people, including non-Christians.  Some have called for him to be removed from office for dividing Iraqi society.

One of the first people to slam the Islamic leader’s claims is the Chaldean patriarch, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, who noted that a man of faith, whatever his religion, should favour brotherhood, tolerance and love, not division and sedition.

The patriarch called on the Iraqi government to prosecute those who spread such rhetoric, especially when they do it from official platforms.

“These are misconceptions, misguided and far from the correct knowledge of religions,” Sako said. “Our people today need to deepen the common denominators in order to contribute to the achievement of coexistence, not treachery, atonement and incitement to hatred,” he added.

The Chaldean primate mentioned the issue again in his New Year message, which he sent to AsiaNews. He also praised the Iraqi government for declaring Christmas a national holiday for all citizens.

In the recent past, Christians and others have been targeted to drive them out of their land. In light of this, the mufti’s words are ominous because they can inspire “hatred and exclusion”.

Instead the prelate calls on Christians and Muslims to “open up to the other” and “deepen” what they share so that they can build a “bright future”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ASIA NEWS (ITALY)

‘This year is special’: Baghdad comes together to celebrate Christmas

2018-12-23T091205Z_1081705630_RC1A41593620_RTRMADP_3_CHRISTMAS-SEASON-RETAILBAGHDAD – Baghdad residents are approaching Christmas with an enthusiasm that defies increasingly outdated international perceptions of Iraq as a perpetually war-torn country often at the mercy of armed groups.

Market stalls are piled high with Santa Claus cuddly toys or lined with an impressive range of plastic Christmas trees in multiple shades, while whole shop aisles are dedicated to selling seasonal items – coloured baubles, glittery fir cones, miniature plastic snowmen and white-trimmed bright-red children’s outfits.

Across the capital, many hotels, cafes and restaurants have trees and decorations, mostly featuring images of Father Christmas rather than Nativity scenes, with such Christian symbolism largely confined to churches.

This year is special, and we’re celebrating in a bigger and wider way, ringing the church bells and singing

– Iraqi nun

“We haven’t had any threats or problems this year, and the situation for us is nice and stable,” said a nun in the Dominican Convent in Baghdad’s Karrada district who preferred not to give her name.

Standing beside an illuminated Nativity scene and richly decorated Christmas tree in Baghdad’s Christ the King Church, she told Middle East Eye that Iraq’s Christians have previously tempered their celebrations, as the holiday has sometimes coincided with the Islamic month of Muharram, when many Muslims mourn the killing of the Prophet’s grandson, Imam Hussein.

“We respect Muslims’ sadness at this time,” she said.

Muslims defied the Islamic State to save two ancient Christian manuscripts in Mosul

IRAQ_-_don_paolo_e_manoscrittiMosul (AsiaNews) – A Muslim family hid for three years two ancient Syriac Orthodox books in Mosul during the city’s occupation by the Islamic State (IS) group to prevent their destruction at the latter’s hands. They did so, putting their own lives at risk. Their courage and action show that Mosul and Iraq can be rebuilt and reborn on the basis of unity and coexistence of its various groups, above all Christians and Muslims.

Upon the city’s liberation, the manuscripts’ protectors handed them over to a representative of the Chaldean community in Erbil but asked that their identity be protected because “sleeper cells” still exist in the city, ready to exact vengeance.

Fr Paulos Thabit Mekko spoke to AsiaNews about this story. He is now the repository of the two precious manuscripts (pictured) until they can be returned to their rightful owners.

“Recently a Chaldean from Mosul contacted me saying that he had a Muslim neighbour from the time he lived in the city 20 years ago,” said the priest. The family of the Muslim man, who can trace his ancestry back to ancient Mesopotamia, and his “have been friends for a long time” despite the distance and the violence by IS.

In 2015, when the city was under the latter’s control, the Muslim man, who is the head of the family, went with a relative to an area near the Chaldean monastery of St Michael.

“One day the man saw a lorry dump some rubbish. He was in the area looking for some wood to cook and heat his home. Among the refuse, he found a couple of manuscripts in ancient Syriac script and thought they might be of some value.”

Despite the danger, he took them and hid them in his home. “He was scared because he knew he could be killed if he were found out,” said the Chaldean priest.

After the liberation of Mosul, he decided to visit his friend and former Christian neighbor in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, where the latter had sought refuge to escape IS.

“He told him that he had some ancient Christian manuscripts at his home and if he knew a priest or a trusted man to whom he could hand them over. Someone who would not try to make money from them.”

“I went to Mosul a few days ago where I met the two former neighbours, the Christian and the Muslim. The latter entrusted me with the two tomes. They contain the offices of the morning and evening prayers in Syriac Antiochene Orthodox rite.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM ASIANEWS.IT

American Kids Are Learning Islamophobia From Their Textbooks

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Donald Trump’s travel ban, recently upheld by the Supreme Court, is wreaking havoc on Muslim families, forcing some Americans to leave the United States for countries in the midst of devastating wars in order to reunite with loved ones. The resilience ― and, among some Americans, popularity ― of the travel ban is emblematic of how enshrined Islamophobia has become in American culture. Even our highest court of justice has endorsed a discriminatory law rooted in misconceptions about the instability, oppression and violence of the Middle East and Islamic faith.

While many people blame these persistent misconceptions on mass-media depictions of Arabs and Muslims, that’s not where they begin. We need to examine the pervasiveness of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim information in the American education system ― and, in particular, in textbooks.

Most Americans’ exposure to the Middle East and Islam starts with what they learn in high school history class. World history textbooks in the United States only allocate around 3 percent of space to discussions of these topics. And the story those textbooks tell in that limited space is a disturbing one. My research on world history textbooks used across the country finds that sections about Islam and the Middle East advance a “rise and fall” narrative. That story goes like this: In the medieval period, the Middle East was a flourishing and advanced civilization, but due to an inability to modernize, the region has subsequently declined into chaos, oppression and violence. This sensationalized version of history reduces the region to a bygone society and fails to account for the vibrant and dynamic contemporary reality of the Middle East.

 

Iraq’s Christians, Muslims agree to revive site of ancient church

kokheh-870BAGHDAD — A group of Christians from Baghdad who visited the ruins of the Church of Kokheh, located 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the Iraqi capital, were spontaneously invited by the local Muslim community for lunch after their tour.

The historical Church of Kokheh is one of the early points of departure of Christianity in the Middle East, Father Mansour al-Makhlissi, founder and head of the Center for Eastern Studies at the Roman Catholic Church in Baghdad, told the visitors as he took them around the site of the church on May 25. “It was the patriarchal residence of the Eastern Church for centuries,” he said, adding that 24 patriarchs were buried in the church built by Saint Mari in the first century.

Over the past 20 years, Christians could not visit the remnants of the church due to safety concerns, most recently due to the attacks by the Islamic State.

With the area now more secure, the Center for Eastern Studies organized the visit to the Church of Kokheh. The current al-Mada’in district was called Ctesiphon or Taysafun in ancient times, and served as the winter capital of the Parthian Empire and later of the Sasanian Empire. The area was discovered and partially excavated by the German Oriental Society in 1929.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL-MONITOR

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/06/christians-muslims-want-to-revive-visits-to-old-church.html#ixzz5I9J2chx3

For the Archbishop of Kirkuk, young Christians and Muslims are the engine to rebuild Iraq

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The new generation is the true foundation on which to rebuild after years of divisions, violence and extremism, says Mgr Yousif Thoma Mirkis who met 700 university students from Mosul, lodged in Kirkuk during the Islamic State rule. Two young men from Mosul, one Christian and one Muslim, shot a video telling the story of a friendship that is stronger than the jihadi madness.

KIRKUK: Rebuilding Iraq, after years of wars, extremism, divisions and violence culminating in the rise of the Islamic State, which is down but not yet out, must be based “on the young, who are the basis on which to build the future,” said Mgr Yousif Thoma Mirkis, archbishop of Kirkuk, northern Iraq.

The prelate recently met with a group of students from the University of Mosul who were lodged in his diocese when the Islamic State controlled the city.

In a context of “social strife and devastations that have struck streets, houses, places of worship and cultural centres”, the University of Mosul “has resumed activities trying to secure a future for its students,” the archbishop said.

For him, the new generation is the starting point to revive Iraq’s social, economic and cultural fabric, torn by conflicts and divisions over identity and sectarianism.

Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed that young people play a leading role in building a “healthier and more supportive” society.

The pontiff is set to meet with a group of over 300 young people from all over the world, who will be in the Vatican from 19 to 24 March to discuss the issues that will be on the agenda of next year’s Synod of Bishops, dedicated precisely to new generations.

At this meeting, participants will present their experiences and their requests to Pope Francis, for both Catholics but also young people from other religions or no religion.

FULL ARTICLE FROM HERALD MALAYSIA

These Muslims gave Christians a Christmas gift – and went to the heart of the gospel

mosulLook back on 2017, and one of the most alarming things about it has been the rise of the far right. Trump’s America, Duterte’s Philippines, and in Europe Hungary, Austria, Poland, and – may God help us all – even Germany have seen politics thrive on language that’s fundamentally about identity. It’s us versus them, and ‘they’ are usually of a different religion, sexuality, colour, income or ideology than ‘us’. Because of this, we should fear and hate them.

In the so-called ‘Christian’ West, of course, the religion dog-whistle is tuned to Islam. Muslims are the enemy. They are relentlessly opposed to decent Christian people, and decency in general. Any evidence to the contrary just proves how duplicitous they are. The fact that they might speak with an accent, that their skins might be a slightly different shade from the majority’s, and that they – or their parents, or grandparents – might have been born somewhere else is catnip to conspiracy theorists: it’s just more (rather circumstantial) proof that ‘they’ hate ‘us

Well, for people who believe this tosh and are prone to ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ posts that reinforce it, here’s something to think about.

Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul were driven out by Islamic State three years ago. It’s still not really safe for them to return, in spite of the government declaring the conflict over, though they are dribbling back. But at Christmas around 2,000 of them made the journey from camps near Erbil for a Christmas service, the first there since the war began.

What made it possible, according to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, was a group of young Muslims.

These young people helped to clean the debris from the church, make it ready for the service, and even erected the cross that had been thrown down by ISIS.

That’s right: ‘they’ did this for ‘us’.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY