Christmas hope in the Middle East

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Christmas hope in the Middle East

Though Christmas in the Middle East is set to be a challenging one for the Christians of Syria and Iraq, they are not without hope.

Oppressed minorities in Syria have been caught in the conflict between militia groups and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and in Iraq, displaced by the violence of radical Islamist group, Islamic State.

Catholic Aid Agency, Aid to the Church in Need Regional Director Phillip Collignon, said that since the start of the Syrian civil war more than 12 million euros had been given to needy Christians of the region.

“A Chaldean Catholic Church in the Nineveh plains (of Iraq) has managed to build seven pre-fabricated schools,” he said.

“Tens of thousands of children are being educated.”
Mr Collignon explained that the renewed pressure on Islamic State, including air strikes being made by western powers, would also have an adverse effect on regular civilian populations of the region.

“You can’t bomb Islamic State without blowing the hell out of the general population as well,” Mr Collignon said.
Yet the hope of often displaced Christian minorities in the region remains strong.

“The Christians are a people full of hope [and] they would dearly love to return home one day and be with their children,” Mr Collignon said.

“We must be a people of hope too.”

For Alawite Syrian-Australian Mohamad Mahmoud, who is Islamic Alawi Centre of Tasmania Committee President, this spirit of hope gives him and his family strength.
Mr Mahmoud, who has family in Syria, explained that he longed for a return to the peaceful co-existence once common in his country.

“We were surrounded by Christian villages,” he said.
“Sunni Muslims and Christians lived together for decades.”
A return to stable Government, and positive results for international military intervention are among the outcomes he hopes for.

Speaking of recent violence, Mr Mahmoud prayed that the Christmas season might be one of peace for the region and the world.

“We hope and we pray that God almighty brings sense to humans to make a better world for everybody,” he said.
“We are intelligent beings and we should know better.”