Monday, December 25, 2006

My Christmas Wish: Tolerance on Earth

Predictable, yet poignant, the Associated Press has a Christmas story about the difficulty the few Iraqi Christians have in celebrating Christmas. Here is a link.

I can't remember a Christmas without such a story (or two, or three). Different countries, different wars, different Christian denominations or sects, different oppressors, and yet the stories themselves are virtually identical.

These stories of oppression always, remarkably enough, mirror the original Christmas Story. One group of people is oppressed, occupied or enslaved by another. They are forced to live in the shadows, to live in fear of violence. At the time of Jesus birth, it was the Jews who were oppressed and their lands occupied (as it has often been throughout history).

Traditionally, the AP gives us these Christmas stories of religious oppression from China where most religious celebrations, and even worship itself, must be hidden from the government. I remember reading these stories as a child. And even today many Christian and other religious leaders are imprisoned for the open demonstration of their faith.

But during the war in Bosnia, such stories came from there. It makes perfect sense the AP would profile the plight of Christians in Iraq.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Umm Salam draws her curtains across her windows, then settles into an armchair in a living room festooned with colored lights and a portrait of Jesus on the cross. Her Christmas tree glitters in the corner.

One of Iraq's estimated 800,000 Christians, the 56-year-old widow celebrates the holiday quietly with her children and grandchildren, as violence sweeps the country.

"It is very risky to go the church in our neighborhood, so we will have a party at home and some of our relatives will come to celebrate," she said. "They'll have to stay the night at our home due to the security situation and the curfew."

The evening service at the local church was canceled for security reasons.

The spirit of Christmas is still alive in Iraq, but it's tucked away behind the closed doors of Christian families, who represent about three percent of Iraq's 26 million people.

Of course the most horrific violence and oppression exists within the Muslim communities. And the worst violence is directed between Sunnis and Shiites. The Christian suffering is just a footnote.

As a Unitarian Universalist they thing I understand least of all is this lack of tolerance. The lack of mutual respect. The absence of inter religious support.

But I'm not sure why I'm surprised. Such lack of understanding and support and tolerance is rampant in this country. Why should the world be any different?

Why, indeed?

For over 50 years I've wished and prayed for Peace on Earth every Christmas. Maybe my wish was just too big. To difficult, even for God.

So this Christmas, I'll tone it down a bit. Let me just wish for a little Tolerance on Earth. I pray for a small amount of compassion. A little mutual respect. I pray everyone who wishes to celebrate Christmas can do so in peace, in safety and with hearts filled with happiness, not fear.

Dear Lord, please do what you can and grant us the wisdom and the courage to do the rest.

Merry Christmas.





The Emerson Avenger said...

Such lack of understanding and support and tolerance definitely exists within the confines of the U*U World itself, it may even be "rampant" in the U*U World. I have seen plenty of examples of anti-Christian, and otherwise anti-religious, intolerance and even outright bigotry within the U*U religious community itself.

So perhaps you can just wish for a little Tolerance in the U*U World. Pray for a small amount of compassion and a little mutual respect in the U*U World. I pray everyone who wishes to celebrate Creation Day can do so in peace, in safety and with hearts filled with happiness, not fear of being accused of belonging to a "manipulative and secretive" cult of the Solar Temple variety by intolerant, hostile and abusive Unitarian*Universalists aka U*Us.

December 26, 2006 9:43 AM  
The Emerson Avenger said...

Don't take that personally Wizard. I am just making a point.

December 26, 2006 9:44 AM  
Vigilante said...

Christian Ethiopia spent Christmas invading non-agressive Islamic Somalia.

December 27, 2006 8:40 PM  
the WIZARD, fkap said...

the emerson avanger Thanks for joining us this Christmas. I hope you are blessed by the Holidays and that the new year finally brings you the peace and understanding you deserve.

vigilante, Merry Christmas to you, too. Christians have been on the wrong side of aggression and oppression more often than not. And that tragic aggression is often directed at Muslims worldwide.

Our (USA/NATO) efforts in Bosnia were a welcome reversal as we helped the Muslim population escape further genocide at the hands of Christians.

But I think you are vastly over simplifying the situation in Somilia. This is much more than "Christians invading non-agressive Islamic Somalia."

First (and worst) is the horrific use of "child soldiers," some as young as six and eight, in the front lines of the war between the UN established government and the Islamic "Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)." While both sides seems to be using children, the most aggregious and well documented use of children on the front lines have be done by the Islamic Guard.

The United Nations yesterday accused both sides of using child soldiers. Calling for an "immediate end" to the conflict, the UN said: "This conflict will push the children of Somalia into further dire crisis." The fighting has also prevented aid agencies from reaching hundreds of thousands of Somalis made homeless by recent flooding.

The Independent, UK (one article is linked out of dozens in the last week).

Perhaps my prayers for tolerance on earth are still too overwhelming to be answered.

the Wizard.......

December 28, 2006 8:42 AM  
John said...

This post has been removed by the author.

December 28, 2006 2:12 PM  
John said...

If you don't accept Jesus Christ as your Saviour, then how can you expect God to answer your prayers?

God does not mandate tolerance. So-called "tolerance" is a code word for today's godless secularism, and so to me it's meaningless. The only road to true peace and understanding is through Jesus Christ, who died for all sinners including Muslims.

And your Church doesn't even believe in the divinity of Christ and they hold apostate religions such as Islam on an equal footing with Christianity. The Holy Bible predicted that this sort of thing would happen in the last days, and we are surely seeing it now.

December 28, 2006 2:15 PM  
the WIZARD, fkap said...

John, It's always a great pleasure to have you visit my website. Thanks for dropping by.

Most (but not all) Unitarian Churches are "non-creedal." In other words the Church itself does not have any particular beliefs it demands it's members follow. Instead, the church leaves the beliefs in the hands of the individual congregants.

But, among those who attend any given Unitarian Church there are a sizeable number who are Christians and who do accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour. In many Unitarian Chruches, such Christians are the majority. And, today, there are a sizable number of Unitarian Universalist Christian Churches.

Many Christians who worship in a Unitarian Church are called to do so by God. Perhaps He wants them to witness within this group.

At any rate, generalizations such as the one you made simply don't apply to the Church itself.

However, you are correct that virtually all who attend Unitarian Churches hold other religions and other worshippers are equals. We may witness, discuss, sight scripture and we certainly may argue, but we never condemn or defame those who have a different vision of God.

I'm deeply sorry that, in your view, God would chose to ignor the prayers of those who fail to meet the demands one particular dogma.

But I trust that you and many in the Christian orthodoxy also pray for world peace, tolerance and understanding between all men.

May God be with you during this most Holy time.... My prayers (as always) are with you. And I trust God is listening.

the Wizard.....

December 29, 2006 6:40 PM  

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