In a first ever public display, Baghdad residents are celebrating Christmas:
From a distance, it looks like an apparition: a huge multi-colored hot-air balloon floating in the Baghdad sky, bearing a large poster of Jesus Christ. Below it, an Iraqi flag.
Welcome to the first-ever public Christmas celebration in Baghdad, held Saturday and sponsored by the Iraqi Interior Ministry. Once thought to be infiltrated by death squads, the Ministry now is trying to root out sectarian violence
The story of an Iraqi priest crystallizes the importance of this celebration:
Father Saad Sirop Hanna, a Chaldean Christian priest, is here too. He was kidnapped by militants in 2006 and held for 28 days. He knows firsthand how difficult the lot of Christians in Iraq is but, he tells me, “We are just attesting that things are changing in Baghdad, slowly, but we hope that this change actually is real. We will wait for the future to tell us the truth about this.”
He just returned from Rome. “I came back to Iraq because I believe that we can live here,” he says. “I have so many [Muslim] friends and we are so happy they started to think about things from another point of view and we want to help them.”
During this time of celebration and joy I am heartened to see that our brothers and sisters in Christ living in Iraq can join in along with their neighbors. Let’s keep praying for peace and prosperity to continue to spread in Iraq and that celebrations like this will increasingly become the norm there.