Christian and mainstream media outlets have routinely used the Christmas season as an opportunity to draw attention to the suffering of Christians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In years past, Palestinian Christians have been portrayed as the modern-day equivalent of the Holy Family that was forced to give birth to baby Jesus in a manger because of the oppressive policies of the Roman empire. Predictably, Israel was cast in the role of the Roman oppressors.
The trope became so obvious that CAMERA coined the term “Bethlehem Fomula” to describe the process by which the Christian liturgical calendar was used to generate contempt towards Israel. As tourism has improved in recent years, the template of Palestinian Christians as the Holy Family and Israel as the Roman empire has been increasingly difficult to apply.
This year is no exception, especially since Christian merchants in Bethlehem have stopped selling crosses for fear of offending their Muslim neighbors.
This is a sad story, but there’s one that’s even sadder that doesn’t seem to be getting much traction in the community that has routinely targeted Israel for condemnation. Still reeling from the Oct. 31 attack that killed several dozen Christians in Baghdad, church leaders in Iraq have decided not to celebrate Christmas this year.
An article in USA Today provides some detail:
On Tuesday, al-Qaeda insurgents threatened more attacks on Iraq’s beleaguered Christians, many of whom have fled their homes or the country since the church attack. A council representing Christian denominations across Iraq advised its followers to cancel public celebrations of Christmas out of concern for their lives and as a show of mourning for the victims. “Nobody can ignore the threats of al-Qaeda against Iraqi Christians,” said Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako in Kirkuk. “We cannot find a single source of joy that makes us celebrate. The situation of the Christians is bleak.”
This would seem like a good opportunity for Christian organizations such as the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches to express solidarity with their co-religionists in Iraq, but so far, two days before Christmas, they have yet to release a statement. By way of comparison, the World Council of Churches has issued a statement on the Kairos Document which was released more than a year ago. Talk about beating a dead horse.
Will either of these organizations comment on this sad state of affairs in time for Christmas? Or will they take a pass? And if they do lament the sufferings of Christians in Iraq in time for Christmas, will they mention exactly who perpetrated the attack on Oct. 31 or will the attackers be left unnamed?