A sincere thank you to the many beautiful, kind, and loving Christians, Muslims, and others, who took it upon themselves to help out the Christians of Iraq.
*ERBIL, IRAQ - DECEMBER 12: Iraqi Christian children make Christmas decorations in a school tent erected in the grounds of Mazar Mar Eillia Catholic Church, in Ankawa, that has now become home to hundreds of Iraqi Christians who were forced to flee their homes as the Islamic State advanced earlier this year, on December 12, 2014 in Erbil, Iraq.
*In a Christian refugee camp in northern Iraq, a special tent stands out as a reminder of those keeping the faith alive in the midst of persecution.
Refugees erected a tent for Jesus in preparation for the Christmas holiday, the celebration of which will likely be tinged with sadness as the Islamic State continues its attack on Christians, Yazidis and others in its path in Iraq and Syria who disagree with its ideology.
Even so, Canon Andrew White, who leads St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, said in a recent HuffPost blog that there is still room for hope for Iraqi Christians celebrating the holiday. Despite the sadness and trauma imprinted on the hearts of many, Christmas offers a message about God’s love that not even the Islamic State can wipe out.“I will never forget the day in Baghdad when we had some visitors,” White wrote. They had come to see what it was really like for Christians in Iraq.
They were so surprised by how happy the thousands of people were in our congregation. ‘How can you be so happy when you are surrounded [by] suicide bombs, mortar’s rockets and such violence?’ One of our young people answered the statement. ‘You see when you have lost everything, Jesus is all you have got left.’*
*Nonetheless, Christmas this year comes at a time when many faith groups in Baghdad, where Willingham lives and works, are united in solidarity against the Islamic State.
“Those originally from Baghdad (along with many Muslims) have also found a lot of joy in welcoming and serving those displaced by ISIS,” Willingham told HuffPost by email. “I was just at a school this morning full of displaced Muslims (Shia Turkmen and Arabs) who received heaters from local Christians, and the day before that I was at a church where Muslims were providing for Christians. There’s quite a bit of cooperation that’s happening between the sects.”
Patriarch Raphael Louis Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church to which many Iraqi Christians belong, has urged people to pray and fast from Dec. 22 through Christmas Eve in solidarity with “displaced brothers and sisters, who are going through indescribable suffering.” He also suggested avoiding “worldly celebration” on Christmas and New Year’s days, according to Catholic World News.*