Media busy visiting Iraqi churches on Christmas

Yesterday I posted on an AP article about a Chaldean church in Baghdad. Christmas in Iraq proves to be a popular story line with the media.  I found two other stories about churches in Baghdad celebrating Christmas: one from McClatchy about a Greek Orthodox church and one from Time magazine about a “Catholic” church. The latter shows special ignorance. What kind of Catholic? Assyrian? Chaldean? Roman? Reporters learned to differentiate between Sunni and Shia Muslims, but since Catholics aren’t attacking each other I guess some of them can’t be bothered to figure out the different Iraqi churches.

At any rate, it’s nice to see attention paid to Christians in Iraq, and the human interest stories are good. But it would also be good if the reporters dug a little deeper. We get information about the government’s efforts (from  McClatchy):

The government of Iraq has tried to telegraph a message that the country is safe enough for Christian refugees to return this year.

Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki touted security improvements in a July meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Iraq Interior Minister Jawad Bolani this week hosted a Christmas celebration in the city’s Karrada neighborhood where a man dressed up like Santa Claus mingled with children wearing traditional Iraqi clothing.

A banner at the outdoor party read, “Christians are part of the Iraqi people.”

And the obligatory “but” —

High profile attacks against Christians, particularly in the northern city of Mosul, test that message.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that as many 2,000 Christian families fled that city in October after a series of killings. Some began to return a month later with the help of $800 cash grants from the Iraqi government to help them resettle.

Haven’t we learned by now that Iraq isn’t a monolithic place, and that violence has been dealt with area by area? The situation in Mosul is not the same as that in Baghdad or other places. It doesn’t detract from the achievements in Baghdad that the entire county isn’t pacified yet. 

The Time article doesn’t bother with Mosul. It’s all warmhearted human interest with this tacked on at the end:

As the congregants headed home, a car bomb exploded in Shula, a predominantly Shi’ite neighborhood northwest of Mansur, the AP reported. The bomb appeared to have been targeted at the Iraqi police.

That’s just so we don’t think things are actually much better, I guess; I don’t know what other relevance it could have. But the parts that really need more background are those on the Christian refugees who have left Iraq.  From the McClatchy article:

Yacob said the exodus won’t reverse until Christians feel they can hold steady jobs in the Muslim country.

“They won’t listen if I say turn back and I don’t provide them with jobs and security,” he said.

A church member said it feels safe enough now, but he isn’t sure it will last.  The Time article points out what we’ve been saying:

“I’m asking all the Christian brothers to come back and rebuild the new Iraq,” [the priest] told his audience, adding that he had stayed through the worst years of the violence, during which he took on the leadership of two additional churches whose priests had fled. After the service, others in the congregation echoed his pride.

“My sister and her family are in America now as humanitarian refugees in Chicago. But they feel like strangers there, and they miss this atmosphere,” says Ghassan Khudher, a pediatrician who has attended Mar Yousif on Christmas for the past 10 years. “Here there is still fear for our families and our children,” he says to me. “But I don’t like being outside [Iraq], because your country is not like Iraq.”

Reporters are welcome to consult RRW for information on Iraqi refugees in the U.S. Just search “Iraqi” and “jobs”  or “Iraqi” and “unemploy” and you’ll find a lot of stories about how difficult it is for Iraqi refugees here, culturally and economically. A common thread has been that people who were professionals in Iraq can’t work in their fields here, though the refugee agencies promised them streets paved with gold. And of course many of the refugees miss their own culture and country.

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