Iraq declares Christmas an official holiday

Here’s some rare good news for Iraqi Christians. The Associated Press reports:

BAGHDAD  —  Iraq’s Christians, a small minority in the overwhelmingly Muslim country, quietly celebrated Christmas on Thursday with a present from the government, which declared it an official holiday for the first time.

This is of course followed by news of continuing violence in Iraq. Not against Christians, but in general. It has nothing to do with the topic of the story, but the AP can’t let us think anything good is happening in Iraq, even now, without “balancing” it with bad news. However, since the story is about Christmas, eventually it continues:

In his homily on Thursday, Chaldean Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly praised the establishment of Christmas as an official holiday as a step toward easing tensions.

“I thank it too for making this day an official holiday where we pray to God to make us trust each other as brothers,” he said at the Christmas Mass before several dozen worshippers in the small chapel of a Baghdad monastery.

A senior Shiite cleric, Ammar al-Hakim attended the event, flanked by bodyguards, in a gesture of cooperation with Christians.

“I thank the visitors here and ask them to share happiness and love with their brothers on Christmas. By this they will build a glorious Iraq,” the cardinal said.

“We came here to bring a message of love, respect and gratitude to our Christian brothers and to share happiness with them as we have shared sadness with them during the cruel targeting they came under,” al-Hakim said in an interview with al-Furat TV. “We will do our best for equality between people and a good life for all, whatever their religious, sectarian and ethnic background.”

Who knows what this means for the long term or for the overall picture? Nevertheless, an official recognition of Christmas, which means so much to the Christians of Iraq, is a good sign.

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