Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas under fire

I did miss both Episodes 2 & 3 of The Nativity and of last night's Channel 4 news, which had a report on 'Christmas in Iraq living in fear', but caught up with them on iPlayer and 4oD. I'll reserve any comments about The Nativity until I've seen the end. But the report on Iraq is certainly worth eight minutes of your time: Click on the picture of Andrew White among St George's congregation.

From Channel 4 website
Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4's international editor, describes the continuing exodus of Christians from post-war Iraq, from a million to half that today. She takes us to the Catholic church of Our Lady of Salvation attacked by al-Qaida suicide bombers leaving more than 50 dead, where now a forlorn remnant remain to worship.

Christians are now targets in their homes. The aim of the extremists is to drive them all from Iraq. It's little wonder they live in such fear, and Christianity of course predates Islam there by centuries. Andrew White, in St George's in Baghdad, still uses Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, in the liturgy of his services. I believe the apostle Thomas founded the Christian church in Iraq before travelling further east; so maybe not "more than" but getting on for 2000 years ago.

St George's, it seems, will be the only place where Christmas is joyfully celebrated in Baghdad this year, and that obviously makes it more of a target for terrorist attacks. It's a real reminder to us who'll be debating whether to face a bit of cold to get to church of what many have to face merely for worshipping the Christ-child. It's also a reminder of the climate of fear which prevailed in first-century Palestine.

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