Report By Karokh Nuraddin
As terror forced Iraqi Christians to cancel most masses and Christmas celebrations, the story of Christians living in the Kurdistan region of Iraq was different.
“Christmas is a joyful event; our religion urges us for being happy and spreading happiness,” said Ano Jawhar, a journalist based in Ainkawa, a Christian stronghold in Iraqi Kurdistan.
In a festive atmosphere, Ainkawa’s churches, streets were decked with bright lights and large Christmas trees. Groups of children including those coming from Baghdad were seen arm-in-arm on the streets waiting for Santa Clause to come and hand out gifts.
At the entrance of Ainkawa town, trees and walls are lightened in various colors; the Churches were full of prayers and celebrators on Christmas night.
The KRG has spent 142 million ID (nearly $113600) on Christmas and New Year celebrations for the town, according to Ferhad Marbin, head of Ainkawa’s Municipality.
Less than 200 miles away from here is Baghdad where a deadly attack on October 31 resulted in the death of more than 50 people in a church after a few armed men took the worshipers hostage and shot them.
Since then threats have been continuous and, in turn, a steady exodus of Christians has begun of whom there have been hundreds of families coming here to the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan in Northern in Iraq.
“We will spend an amount of this budget in buying gifts for the kids of the fled families, to limit their grief and depression” said Marbin, referring to the necessity of delivering more aids for those families.”
Large number of these Christians, however, now find unemployed, and are either with no accommodation, sharing houses with their relatives, of in houses in affluent Ainkawa which they can hardly afford, as reported by the IRIN, United Nation’s Humanitarian News Agency.
The recent months have been the toughest for the Iraqi Christians, which made them not to think about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on Dec. 25, as they have been doing in the past. In Baghdad and Mosul, the mourns of Christians are still heard for the violence they face on daily basis.
“I am not going to celebrate Christmas this year,” said Abu Yousuf Yaqub, who had fled Mosul three years ago and found refuge in Ainkawa. “I want to share grievance of Baghdad’s Christians.”
“Mosul is a very conservative place, the people there consider the Christians infidels,” he said.
Yaqub’s son would have die, if he stayed in Mosul and refused to help the insurgents in buying arms, and funding them.
“We are not ready to sell our dignity, we left our home with only few belongings and we headed to Kurdistan,” said Abu Yusuf.
Since after the slaughter of the Baghdad Church, many Christians have decided not to celebrate Christmas this year, both in fear of more attacks, and for showing their grievance.
“Of course they wouldn’t celebrate, those people’s hearts are broken,” said Jawhar.
But Jawhar said that the coexistence between the Kurds and the Christians is “unique” in the Middle East, suggesting, “Erbil is more secure than Cairo for Christians.”
This report was published in IKP-magazine, issue 17, Jan. 2011