In this season of giving, it’s hard to think of anything more unlike the Christmas spirit than U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley’s threat to withhold aid to countries who voted against President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. That’s the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch who stole Christmas, not Christmas.
The spirit of Christmas is celebrating the value and beautiful of every human being, whatever their religious, social, political or economic identity — including an impoverished Baby born years ago in a community under military occupation Who just after His birth became a refugee. The participants in the original Christmas whom U.S. policy most resembles are the Roman soldiers. We, like them, seem to think that military power is the ultimate power in the world.
Instead of acting like the Roman soldiers, we should be acting like the Wise Men, who were open to new ideas. A new idea that we should be open to today is that peace is possible through mutual respect. Christians and Muslim can live together; in fact, the peaceable coexistence of these great faiths is much more the norm in the world than the troubles between them which so often dominate our headlines.
Here are a few signs of hope on this Christmas Day that peace is possible:
In Syria, the prime minister visited the Christian St. Gregory Orthodox Society for orphans and the elderly care and said, “I wish you a Merry Christmas in which love and peace prevails across our homeland and for all our people.” He also attended a Christmas celebration at the Church of the Holy Cross. More at: https://sana.sy/en/?p=122152
In Iran, President Hassan Rouhani sent congratulatory greetings to Pope Francis and “congratulated world leaders on the auspicious occasion of the birth anniversary of the ‘prophet of mercy and kindness’ Jesus Christ and the beginning of the new Christian year. More at http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/12/24/546691/Rouhani-Pope-Francis-Christmas-Jesus-Christ-Christians#
In Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad Hariri celebrated Christmas by visiting with underprivileged children: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2017/Dec-23/431375-hariri-hosts-children-for-christmas-event.ashx
In Jordan, their Majesties King Abdullah II, Queen Rania and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hussein, conveyed their good wishes on the holy occasion of Christmas to all Jordanian Christians and Muslims alike. http://www.alghad.com/articles/2010172-King-Queen-Crown-Prince-Convey-Christmas-Good-Wishes-to-All
The monumentally foolish and tragic U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 created tremendous anger and was a key factor in the rise of ISIS and the subsequent persecution of Iraqi Christians. Nevertheless, last year Muslims in Baghdad celebrated Christmas ini solitary with their Christian neighbors: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iraq-baghdad-christmas-christians-muslims-tree-decorations-solidarity-a7494946.html
Photo: Children’s choir in Baghdad before the U.S. invasion in 2003.
(c) Mel Lehman