As the usual right-wing demagogues wind themselves into pretzel postures of false outrage for being denied the right to use instruments of government to impose their religious rituals on those who do not so celebrate, it’s time to point out that despite their hypocrisy, pseudo-sanctimony, and just plain cultural bigotry, there is a hidden kernel of truth in their simple-minded sloganeering. For there is an actual war on Christmas, and it is going on right before our eyes. But they don’t see it, and they certainly wouldn’t want anyone to talk about it, because it’s taking place in Iraq, and it is the fault of their political hero, George W. Bush.
As the New York Times explained, in October 2006:
Christianity took root here near the dawn of the faith 2,000 years ago, making Iraq home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities. The country is rich in biblical significance: scholars believe the Garden of Eden described in Genesis was in Iraq; Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees, a city in Iraq; the city of Nineveh that the prophet Jonah visited after being spit out by a giant fish was in Iraq.
Both Chaldean Catholics and Assyrian Christians, the country’s largest Christian sects, still pray in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
They have long been a tiny minority amid a sea of Islamic faith. But under Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s million or so Christians for the most part coexisted peacefully with Muslims, both the dominant Sunnis and the majority Shiites.
One of the oldest Christian communities in the world, for the most part peacefully coexisting. And then came Bush.
But since Mr. Hussein’s ouster, their status here has become increasingly uncertain, first because many Muslim Iraqis framed the American-led invasion as a modern crusade against Islam, and second because Christians traditionally run the country’s liquor stories, anathema to many religious Muslims.
And the Times says the result has been threats, church bombings, kidnappings, and murders, with anywhere from tens of thousands to a hundred thousand fleeing the country.
In March of this year, USA Today reported:
The flight of Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite Muslims from their homes under threat of violence has earned much attention. But Iraq’s Christian community has also been targeted and is steadily dwindling as well.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says Christians comprise some 40% of the Iraqi refugees.
Other Iraqis who are forced from their homes often relocate to another city or neighborhood, but Iraqi Christians who have to flee often leave the country, said Dana Graber, an Amman-based officer with the International Organization for Migration. “They feel even more vulnerable because they have few, if any, safe communities to where they can escape,” she said.
Long an integral part of Baghdad’s diverse ethnic and religious communities, Christians have lived side by side with their Muslim neighbors for generations, said Abdullah al-Naufali, head of Iraq’s Christians Endowment.
But as Iraq’s violence flared after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, churches and Christian homes were targeted, al-Naufali said. Ten of Baghdad’s 80 Christian churches have closed, and more than half of Baghdad’s Christian population has fled, he said.
And the Associated Press: