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

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Christians, Muslims join for Christmas Mass in liberated Mosul

mosulMOSUL, Iraq – Cries of joy and seasonal hymns once again filled St. Paul Cathedral in Mosul as Christmas Mass was celebrated there for the first time in three and a half years, following the northern Iraqi city’s liberation from Islamic State militants.

The Iraqi national anthem opened the Mass as women wailed with emotion. Armored police outside protected the worshippers.

Led by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad, Christians and Muslims attended the Christmas Mass Dec. 24 in a display of unity.

“My message is to our brothers the Muslims,” said Patriarch Sako. “I ask them to change their way of thinking; you should know Christianity better. In the past, Christians were the majority in Iraq; today we are minority, but without us, Mosul will never be the same.”

He urged the faithful to pray for “peace and stability to reign in Mosul, Iraq and the world.”

Underscoring Christ’s message of love and peace, he urged displaced Christians to return home and participate in its reconstruction.

“They are not going back because their houses are destroyed or burned, and the church is restoring all of the houses,” Sako said. “We are hopeful that many, many Christians will be back.”

Islamic State militants had seized and terrorized Mosul and the surrounding areas in 2014, sending most of its Christian population of 200,000 into flight. The militants threatened the Christians, telling them to convert to Islam, pay protection tax, die or flee.

Last July, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the expulsion of Islamic State from Mosul after a fierce, nine-month military campaign.

When Islamic State militants invaded Mosul, they prohibited public Christian worship services and began systematically destroying churches. St. Paul Cathedral reportedly was used as a prison by the militants, the damaged interior walls reflecting some of the destruction.

“With this celebration, we tell them that residents of Mosul are all brothers, whatever their religion or ethnicity, and despite all the damage and suffering,” Christian worshipper Farqad Malko said of the message to the militants.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUXNOW

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

baghdad-tree

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.

baghdad-church-0

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT (UK)

How religious holidays are uniting Iraqi Muslims and Christians

Christians Ramadhan

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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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 

 

Islam, ISIS and the violence against Christianity — Syed Farid Alatas

24-Christians-AP (1)NOVEMBER 11 — Forces fighting under the self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, after having captured large areas of Iraq and Syria earlier this year, not only fought against and killed Muslims who stood in their way, but also began barbaric acts of violence against Christians and other religious minorities. Many Christians were threatened with their lives for not converting to Islam. They had to endure harassment, arrests, and various forms of violence. As a result tens of thousands of Iraqi Christian men, women and children have fled what had become a genocide against an ancient Christian community. Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod of the Syriac Orthodox church said that ISIS had burned churches, old religious texts, damaged crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary, and converted churches into mosques.

How is it that a group that claims to rule in the name of Islam can be so brutal to fellow human beings? Many would claim that Islam is a religion of peace and that violence perpetrated in the name of Islam is actually due to distortions or misunderstandings of the religion. There are those, however, who would say that Islam is not innocent of its militant and murderous adherents. They often cite verses of the Qur’an such Al-Tawbah [9]:5 which says: “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war)”.

To make matter worse, it is always possible to find historical cases of the brutal treatment of Christians by Muslims. A case in point is the 11the century Fatimid ruler, Abu Ali Mansur Tariq al-Hakim. Al-Hakim was known in the West as the “Mad Caliph” because of the brutal manner in which he treated religious minorities. The persecution of Christians and Jews began under his reign in 1004 AD when he decreed that Christians would no longer be allowed to celebrate Easter. Al-Hakim is also known to have forced Jews and Christians to become Muslims at the point of a sword, destroyed numerous churches and other Christian holy sites in Palestine and Egypt, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1009.

How do we reconcile the verses of the Qur’an that appear to support the violence perpetrated against Christians such as during Al-Hakim’s and Al-Baghdadi’s reigns?

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MALAY MAIL