I’ve written about the real War on Christmas- in Iraq. Well, the New York Times has this, today, from Baghdad:
Inside the beige church guarded by the men with the AK-47s, a choir sang Christmas songs in Arabic. An old woman in black closed her eyes while a girl in a cherry-red dress, with tights and shoes to match, craned her neck toward rows of empty pews near the back.
“Last year it was full,” said Yusef Hanna, a parishioner. “So many people have left – gone up north, or out of the country.”
In a safe neighborhood, in the midst of the relative calm of the current relative downturn in violence, this is still less than a Merry Christmas.
Iraq’s Christians have fared poorly since the fall of Saddam Hussein, with their houses or businesses frequently attacked. Some priests estimate that as much as two-thirds of the community, or about one million people, have fled, making Sacred Heart typical. Though a handful have recently returned from abroad, only 120 people attended Mass on Monday night, down from 400 two years ago.
But, of course, that was in a safe neighborhood. Elsewhere, the violence continues, irrespective of religion or season. The Washington Post reports:
Gunmen stopped a minibus driving north of Baghdad on Monday and abducted 13 Iraqi civilians inside, Iraqi police reported. The mass kidnapping was a renewed tactic that has grown increasingly rare as violence has ebbed in Iraq.
An ominous sign?