Christian Refugees In Iraq Face Up To A Bleak Christmas

ICC Note: For more than 100,000 Christians, Christmas this year will likely be a time of morning, as they remember all that they’ve lost. They’ve been driven from their homes as jihadists from ISIS captured a large part of western and central Iraq. The heartland of Iraq’s Christian communities have been emptied of their native population for the first time in centuries.

12/18/2014 Iraq (Catholic Herald) David Thamir was having a great time as he played go-karts with other boys. He shrieked, ran and jumped with his companions as they charged around in the vehicles they had made for themselves. It was the sort of joyful and innocent fun which comes naturally to children.

But in this instance, it was also a fleeting moment of respite from the agony of existence. Maybe those watching the children at play gave thanks to God that these little ones had not fully grasped the enormity of the tragedy that had encompassed their lives.

Perhaps it would be a mistake to assume that David was totally oblivious to his predicament, for around his neck, worn proudly and ostentatiously, hung a large silver crucifix. David is a Christian and at the age of just five has joined his family and thousands of others in becoming refugees for the sake of their faith. He is one of about 120,000 Christians who fled ISIS militants who swept across the Nineveh Plain of northern Iraq in the summer. They now live mostly in tents in Ankawa, a suburb of Erbil, in territory controlled by the Kurds.

David has not experienced many Christmases, but he knows this one will be different from any he has known in his home village of Bartilla, near Qaraqosh.

“I do not think Father Christmas will come this year,” he said, “because he does not know where we are living now, and we are always changing places. Father Christmas knows our house in Bartilla and he will go there, and there is nobody who will tell him where we are now. All our neighbours have left and our village is now empty, my father has told us.”

Nearby is a man who has enjoyed many Christmases. Until this year, Isaac Baho Daniel was a Christian farmer who was so wealthy that he “never forgot a single day to give money to the poor”. He and his family now survive off two meals a day in tents that offer scant protection from plunging night-time temperatures. Christmas was always a big celebration for Isaac and his family. He recalled how they would always begin with a Mass, followed by a visit to the cemetery to pray at the graves of their loved ones. Then came the feasting, when the family would gather around a large table to dine on delicious homemade pasha, a dish Iraqi Christians reserve especially for the celebration of Christmas Day.

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