Generally speaking, I love the Christmas season. But if there’s one thing that I don’t like about the Christmas season, it’s the unavoidable brouhaha surrounding the so-called “war on Christmas,” in which — so goes the claim — atheists, communists, socialists, secularists, and a bunch of other “ists” insist on stripping Christmas of any of its religious (read: “Christian”) significance.
The godless assults take many forms — e.g., removing public nativity displays, exchanging “Merry Christmas” for “Happy Holidays” — and they’re all intended to de-Christianize this sacred Christian holiday. And of course, Christians respond with public outcry about their rights and whatnot being trampled on, as well as the inevitable boycott or protest.
Now, we can debate back and forth until everyone is blue in the face as to whether or not our Christian heritage is getting trampled on by the fact that a Christmas parade is now being called a Holiday parade. But I think I can safely say this: the “persecution” that American Christians experience as a result of this “war on Christmas” is nothing — nothing — compared to what Christians in other parts of the world are experiencing.
Take, for example, this heartbreaking account of Iraq’s Christians:
Five Islamist extremists burst into the church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad in October, murdering two priests, holding the congregation hostage and eventually killing more than 50 people. Now Amnesty International has warned of a spike in violence in the run-up to Christmas and has urged the Iraqi government to do more to protect Christians, who are now believed to number less than 500,000, about half its level of seven years ago.
Only 40 people turned up for mass at Our Lady last Sunday. They sang and chanted, a forlorn gathering of survivors, the walls around them spattered with blood and cratered by bullet-holes. The bloodied hand prints of those who failed to escape marked the door in an ante-room.
In front of the altar stood photographs of the dead, including a light-haired smiling four year old boy, Adam Eashoue, and his 33 year old father, Uday. Adam’s grandparents, Zuher and Amal, cannot bear to return to the church.
Their cousins, Thaer and Nadia, and their two young sons, have already left Baghdad for the Kurdish area in northern Iraq.
“We love Christmas but this year it feels bitter,” said Thaer. “You sit somewhere and you’re afraid; you go shopping and you’re afraid; you go for a walk and you’re afraid. Iraq has become a hell.”
When I read stories like this, I find myself incapable of summoning up any concern or outrage regarding the “war on Christmas.” Maybe, just maybe, American Christians should spend less time worrying about a re-named parade or missing nativity scene, and spend more time praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ who can’t even set foot inside a church without fearing for their lives.