A festive atmosphere prevailed in Iraq over the New Year, despite episodes of violence perpetrated by terrorists. At the forefront of showing solidarity are young Muslims who attended mass and celebrated the start of 2017 with Christians.
In an interview with AsiaNews, Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis Sako stated that initiatives of ordinary people in Iraq are making it possible to "defeat those who seek death, destruction, emigration." The most significant of these, the primate Chaldean shared, is the visit of a group of young Shiite Muslims from Najaf, who attended a mass at St. George church in Baghdad and spent time having lunch and exchanging stories with Mar Sako and other Christians.
The Chaldean patriarch said that the young Muslims, boys and girls, came of their own accord after having watched some of their services in the media. At the end of the mass, a group of young Muslims in Baghdad joined in the celebration, bringing with them flowers.
During the holidays, many Iraqi Muslims put up Christmas decorations in their homes or business establishments in solidarity with Iraq's small Christian community that has been a target of persecution and abuse over the past few years.
Per Ammar Hussein, who works at Sama Mall located in Karrada, one of Baghdad's main shopping districts that have a significant Christian population, Muslims had been purchasing Christmas trees and other holiday items.
"Muslims love to share this holiday season with their compatriots," Hussein said, as reported by Independent. He added that atrocities against Christians in the country are acts by those who hate Iraq and not by Muslims.
The same publication quoted Muslim businessman Yassir Saad saying that he spent around £19,000 on a gigantic artificial Christmas tree displayed at a theme park to help his countrymen "forget their anguish" over the acts of terror from the Islamic State.
The country is witnessing "grass roots revolt against terrorism, against violence," Mar Sako shared, as quoted by AsiaNews, adding that with this comes a renewed commitment to the "defense of life, of peace, and of joy."