In Iraq, a different kind of Christmas
This Christmas, Iraqi Christians will not experience the joy of listening to church bells, exchanging gifts or celebrating their centuries-old traditions. Instead, they will be huddled in refugee camps remembering the night of August 6, 2014, when Mosul, Iraq, and its surrounding villages known as Nineveh — their home of over 2,000 years — were emptied of Christians and Christianity.
The world was silent for weeks and months as the Iraqi Christians faced a wave of ethnic cleansing, religious intolerance, and civic and civil rights violations. It was only until the tragedy struck the Yazidis that the United States and others' conscience arose. Since then, the Iraqi Christians in particular and the Middle East Christians in general have been bewildered by the United States government's inaction or lukewarm reaction to ISIS or its supporters.
The United States, the champion and guardian of human rights and religious freedom, and signator of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, seems to selectively pick and choose who it wishes to safeguard militarily, politically and through other means.
It is strange that members of Congress in their sessions regarding the plight of the Middle East Christians are almost oblivious or ignorant to this calamity, where an area inhabited for over 2,000 years, which people recognize as the cradle of civilization and which the Bible refers to over and over again since even the days of Abraham, was pillaged.
What is sadder is that the tragedy of the Middle East Christians is not new. Over the centuries, the Middle East has been slowly emptying its inhabitants of Christianity, either by slow systemic events or by large-scale genocide, such as the Armenian and Assyrian genocides of the last century.
The United States and its allies cannot wash their hands of what is happening to the Iraqi Christians today and blame it on ethnic or religious centuries-old strife. The fact is that since the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the country has lost two-thirds of its Christians.
This Christmas, the Iraqi Christians do not desire more political speeches, resolutions or handouts. They seek the political will of our government to do what it has done in past similar conflicts — to use all its military, political and humanitarian aid so that these people can celebrate Christmas as they have done for over 2,000 years. Only when church bells can ring again in Mosul and Christmas can be celebrated in the land of its origin can we say that our government is truly the standard for justice, freedom of religion and humanity.
Ramsay F. Dass, president,
American Middle East Christians Congress
director, Iraq American Christians