Muslims mark Ashura with mourning ceremonies

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In their millions, Muslims have staged passionate mourning ceremonies in commemoration of the day in history that witnessed the martyrdom of the icon of sacrifice to the faithful.

The occasion, known as Ashura, marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and 72 of his companions in 680 AD in a land that is known today as Iraq, after they refused to pledge allegiance to the tyrant Yazid.

Ashura is the culmination of a 10-day annual mourning period in the lunar month of Muharram for the third Imam of Shia Muslims, who was a grandson of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him).

The rituals are observed in ultimate magnificence in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq, the latter of which hosts Imam Hussein’s holy shrine.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, traveling from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Lebanon and many other countries, descended on Karbala, with officials putting their numbers at 3 million.

An Iraqi TV channel said authorities had created a security belt around the holy city to protect it from possible terrorist attacks. In the past, Daesh and other Takfiri groups have targeted the pilgrims on their way to Karbala or carried out bombings inside the city.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PRESS TV (IRAN)

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Iraqi American Receives Humanitarian Award

Haneen-AwardMeet Haneen Alsafi, recipient of a humanitarian award from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA and quite an inspiration.

Raised in al-Hillah, in Babil, Iraq, she is the daughter of an Arab Shia father who grew up in Baghdad and a Turkmen Sunni mother who grew up in Erbil. As Alsafi explains in an interview, although they belonged to different ethnic and religious groups, “My parents never disagreed with each other’s sects or beliefs, just like the others, we all shared one country and lived in peace.”

She grew up in a small, very conservative city, but Alsafi also spent enough time in Erbil, a city of over 1.5 million people, to develop a connection. There, she was exposed to an ethnically diverse population consisting of Kurds, Assyrians, Arabs, Armenians, Turcomans, Yezidis, Shabakis and Mandeans, and a religiously rich community with believers in Sunni, Sufi and Shia Islam, as well as Christianity, Yezidism, Yarsan, Shabakism and Mandeanism. Her experience in Erbil was eye-opening.

My family would take us every year to visit my mother’s family in Erbil. I was exposed to a diverse population. Although the culture was very similar, the traditions and the languages were different. I think this exposure definitely prepared me to become the person I am today and played a major role in my path and passion in life. We have Kurdish, Turkmen and Christian friends in the north of Iraq. We still maintain friendship with them. It never was an issue for people from different religions and/or ethnicities to become friends.

Like most Iraqis, the people of Hillah were not spared the ravages of war, death and destruction. The city was the scene of heavy fighting during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Although the city was relatively peaceful after the initial invasion, it soon became the scene of numerous terrorist attacks.

Hillah was targeted by terrorist groups through a series of car bombs and suicide bombers. I lost one of my dearest friends in a car bomb in 2006 at the graduation party for the engineering college graduates. Many other bombings followed: in the local market, at the police academy graduation ceremony and at the retirement center. Hundreds of people were killed each time since, as you can imagine, those attacks targeted huge groups of people. We have been close to bombings but luckily not too close to get injured.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ISLAMIC MONTHLY 

Young Iraqi Christians, Muslims, and Yazidis are the seeds of dialogue in a Land broken by the Islamic State

6606442621494827991ERBIL: In order to overcome the murderous madness of the Islamic State, which has covered with blood a land already brutalised by years of wars and violence, it is necessary to start with “a plan of dialogue and outreach at the local level”, involving first of all children and young people, the new generations, “who will be tasked with building life together” beyond their respective religions.

Starting from such premises, Fr Samir Youssef, pastor of the diocese of Amadiya (Iraqi Kurdistan) who has long been on the frontline of the refugee emergency, is promoting a project to transform “young Muslims, Christians and Yazidis” into “seeds of dialogue ” to breathe new life into Mosul, the Nineveh plain, and Iraq as a whole.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the priest mentioned an initiative that is in its initial stage, but one that has already garnered “the enthusiastic participation” of some thirty of kids, aged 10 to 16, from various religious background. “We started with a group of about 30-35 kids,” Fr Samir said, “but we want to increase the numbers for the summer, involving young people from high school and university.”

The aim is to find youth “eager to talk, communicate, and bear witness” that living together is possible and that from this, a model can emerge applicable across the country, and beyond.

“We have already started to meet,” he added, “although getting the first results will take some time. At the moment, the first group, the base on which to start working, has been found. It includes a dozen Christians, eight Muslims and seven Yazidis. There are also Sabians and Turkmen.”

As parish priest in the diocese of Zakho and Amadiya (Kurdistan), Fr Samir is responsible for about 3,500 Christian, Muslim, and Yazidi refugee families who fled their homes and property in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain to escape Jihadis. Since the summer of 2014 and the start of the emergency, the clergyman has played a key role. Working with him and Iraqi bishops, AsiaNews has recently renewed its Adopt a Christian of Mosul campaign to provide refugees with kerosene, shoes, clothing, and school material for children.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HERALD (MALAYSIA)

Iraq’s Muslims celebrate Christmas in solidarity with Christians

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A tall, glittering tree erected outside a shopping centre in Baghdad could be considered an incongruous display of Christmas festivity in mainly-Muslim Iraq. But the 7-metre-high tree at Sama Mall in the south east of the capital, adorned with tinsel, stars and bells, is one of a number of decorations put up by residents and business owners in solidarity with the country’s Christian minority.

 Muslim businessman Yassir Saad has spent around £19,000 on a huge artificial tree to help Iraqis “forget their anguish” over the war against Isis.

The 85-foot decoration is on display in a Baghdad theme park. Visitor Saba Ismael said it “represents love and peace”. “I wish all Iraqi Christians could return to Iraq and live normal and peaceful lives,” she said.

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FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT (UK)

How religious holidays are uniting Iraqi Muslims and Christians

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The Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate in Iraq called on Christians to fast one day during the holy month of Ramadan. On June 17, Iraqi Christians fasted alongside the Muslim community. The patriarchate’s statement said, “For one day, [Christians] will show solidarity with the fasting Muslims; they will pray for peace and stability in Iraq and the region, as well as for the consolidation of the culture of brotherhood, love and coexistence.”

Father Maysar Bahnam of Mar Korkis Catholic Church in Baghdad told Al-Monitor, “Christians are organizing activities to reach out to Muslims. Our church organized on June 9 an iftar [meal served at sunset] for the fasting Muslims, as an annual tradition that promotes coexistence between Christians and Muslims.”

The official in charge of the church’s Social Committee, Issam Maskouni, told Al-Monitor, “Organizing an iftar for Muslims provides a meeting point for Muslims and Christians far from sectarian bickering and in an atmosphere free from the hate speech and divisive rhetoric prevailing in the political scene.”

For his part, Louis Raphael I Sako, the current Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, told Al-Monitor, “These initiatives are not new to the Chaldean Church and other churches of Iraq. Churches have always provided aid to all Iraqis without exception. They distributed food to refugees fleeing the oppression of the Islamic State [IS], and they did this on different occasions and in different camps. Churches provided medicines to charitable clinics, organized iftars for the fasting Muslims, and hosted and provided care for displaced university students to allow them to complete their academic year or graduate.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL MONITOR 

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KING: ISIS terrorists aren’t Muslims — they’re just evil men hell-bent on carnage and destruction

290220160857083500Maybe you missed it since “pray for Baghdad” didn’t trend on Twitter and Facebook didn’t give you the option of overlaying an Iraqi flag on your profile picture, but something truly horrific happened there Sunday morning. A suicide truck bomb tore through a busy shopping district in Baghdad. ISIS has already claimed the attack as their own.

The carnage it left behind was comparable to our Oklahoma City bombing, but worse. It tore through an entire block, ripped gaping holes in huge buildings, and killed at least 215 people — including dozens of women and young children. The death toll is expected to rise. It was the single deadliest attack in Iraq in nearly a decade. As you read this, people are still combing through the rubble hoping to find their loved ones alive.

This is not the terrorism Olympics, but it was deadlier than Orlando (49 dead), deadlier than Paris (130 dead), and even deadlier than Oklahoma City (168 dead). It was the deadliest terrorist attack in the world this year and one of the deadliest ever measured.

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Did you know that Baghdad is the second largest city in the entire Arab world and that government officials now estimate its population has exceeded 9 million people — making it larger than New York City? I didn’t know that. Because most of what I know about Baghdad I learned from watching mainstream news in the aftermath of 9/11, I knew next to nothing about the city before I prepared to write this article.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS 

Christians join Muslim Ramadan in symbolic act of solidarity in Iraq

iraqi-christiansThe Chaldean Patriarchate invited Iraqi Christians in the war-torn country to celebrate the Holy Ramadan with their fellow Muslim citizens as a symbolic gesture of solidarity.

Heeding the call of Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Iraqi Christians joined Iraqi Muslims Friday, June 17 in celebrating the holy month of Ramadan by fasting and prayer.

“In this way we just wanted to propose a Christian gesture: as Christians, we are confident that fasting and prayer, also shared with others, can work miracles, while weapons and military interventions only kill,” Sako told Agenzia Fides.

Muslims around the world celebrate Ramadan by dawn to dusk with fasting and intense prayer. They commemorate the time believed when Allah revealed the Quran to Prophet Muhammad.

The Christians also accompanied their symbolic gesture with acts of charity as they pray for peace and stability in a country that’s ravaged by Islamic State terrorists and produced a large number of internally displaced people.

“Today we will offer, through Caritas Iraq, a contribution of $50 thousand in favor of the refugees of Fallujah,” said Sako.

The patriarch added that they planned to “symbolically offer” Iftar to some Iraqi Muslims as they break the day’s fasting. He noted that although many Muslims expressed gratitude, some Christians abroad criticized their gesture.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN TIMES