"All Iraqis are Christian today!" says Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul Karim Khalaf to CNN's Jill Dougherty. In an article online, Dougherty writes of Baghdad's first public Christmas celebration.
Saturday the Iraqi Interior Ministry sponsored the celebration. Muslims attended the event, too. "Suad Mahmoud, holding her 16-month-old daughter, Sara, tells me she is indeed Muslim, but she's very happy to be here. "My mother's birthday also is this month, so we celebrate all occasions," she says, "especially in this lovely month of Christmas and New Year."
Longtime readers of my blog know that my husband traveled to Iraq in 2002, a few months before the war began in 2003. It was a business trip and befriended Iraqis that he remains in touch with through e-mail. Some have come to Houston and taken some classes he's conducted as well as been hosted by him in return for their hospitality in Iraq.
My husband has traveled the world yet this is one place he still speaks about. Before his trip, as the rumblings of an approaching war were heard, we were both rather anti-war and hoping the decision would not be made to invade. After his trip, however, my husband said it was the right thing to do, if the decision was made. He said, "we need to help these people." When you meet people and have a face to put with the situation, a different perspective can be formed.
Christians were in a small minority in Iraq. Under Saddam, they were mostly able to live peaceably as long as they lived quietly. As a rule, according to those my husband spoke with there, Saddam turned a blind eye. You may remember that Iraq was not a theocracy under Saddam. He was secular and ran his country as such. Saddam wasn't a fanatical Islamist, he was just crazy and brutal to his own people.
The genocide happening in Iraq was just as horrific as the flavor of the month genocides that the Hollywood celebrities awaken to around the world and demand the U.S. put an end to. No genocide should be tolerated. Where possible, others have to help their fellow man.
My husband was taken to Tikrit and Basra from his base in Baghdad. He was in the presence of "handlers" and one in particular was known as Abu Danny. "Abu" means 'father of' in the Muslim world and Danny was the name of this man's son. They were a Christian family - Armenian Christians - and he took my husband under his protective wing. He was welcomed into Abu Danny's home and even included as a special guest at a family birthday party.
This was particularly comforting to my husband as he was the only American staying at his hotel in Baghdad. He knew how closely he was watched and it was not an atmosphere of freedom. He overheard hotel staff speaking about "the American" and it was assumed by them that he must be CIA. Conversations about the impending American coalition action were in the air.
My husband is a Vietnam veteran. Veterans, as well as active military, are the ones who hope for peace the strongest. It is good the U.S. has been allowed a victory this time.
Merry Christmas, Baghdad.