PITAPOLICY would like to wish you all a happy holidays…and to our Christian Pitapals, a very SAFE merry Christmas. We look forward to hearing your Christmas reflections on the holy lands where Christianity began and other pita-consuming countries with minority Christian populations. Here’s a not from PITAPOLICY Founder, Mehrunisa Qayyum:
Peace & Greetings and SALAAM! First I’d like to echo the PITAPOLICY team’s well wishes for a safe holiday. Second, this post is dedicated to my first Arab Christian friend, Rudaina Sweis and the Sweis family. PITAPOLICY does not focus on religion because our mission for this blog is to engage on political economy issues and international development, however, this decision is not to downplay religion’s role in society, politics, and culture. Rather, it is because religion is such a personal choice, and divine for many–so we leave these discussions for face to face dialogue. On the other hand, it would be unfair to discount the significance of this holiday as it pushes many, both Christians and non, to participate in charity, volunteer at food kitchens and promise to be more peaceful…somehow.
Dana first taught me Arabic numbers, introduced me to grape-leave making, and invited me to my first Greek Orthodox Christmas. Because of her family, I have learned that religious minority communities share so much and make pluralism possible. Breaking pita-bread with them does not erase our religious differences–it allowed us to embrace each other in our shared humanity of good food, family, and deep conversation on how to make things better and NEVER be satisfied with the status quo if the status quo does not produce social good. So wishing you an early blessed Christmas as Greek Orthodox will honor Prophet Isa/Jesus’s divine birth in January. ( It is still a miraculous birth, according to the Islamic faith.)
Third, many of those observing the Christmas holiday can’t celebrate due to occupation, war, and sectarian issues that have been hijacked by geopolitical opportunities. After hearing the Al Jazeera reports that Christians in Iraq needed to be searched before entering their church for Mass, we were saddened to learn of that. Despite US withdrawal, an unsafe environment brings fear to minority communities.
Also, Jim Zogby shared some observations on Bethlehem regarding the Israeli settlements that have creeped into Christian holy sites in his Huffington Post Blog. For example, “Today, Jabal Abul Ghnaim, formerly a part of Bethlehem, is called Har Homa, an Israeli settlement, housing over 17,000.” Nonetheless, thousands of pilgrims still visit Bethlehem, so I hope that they will serve as the countervailing force, if not as watchdogs of accountability.
Next door, Syria’s Christians face an uncertainty in their country because of minority regime’s empty promises to protect them have been somewhat manufactured as Syrian Armed Forces have opened fire on their own women and children. Minority status or not, no Syrian is safe in his or her own country.
Earlier this month in Huffington Post, I described the dilemma of human rights since the war crime of raping Syrian women is carried out systematically–both against political dissidents in urban areas as well as AGAINST women in rural villages. THIS is unacceptable. For all of Mona Eltahawy’s activism against sexual harassment in Egypt’s public square, my stomach churns as just about 300 miles north, women are terrorized in their own homes. I just finished reading Samar Yazbek’s “A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution” and understand that Alawite Syrian women have been raped too.
Fourth, I would like to close out with a positive tidbit as I’m reflecting. In neighboring countries, like Jordan and Lebanon, traditions remain alive despite budget cuts and uncertain standards of living. The following paragraphs are excerpts from Your Middle East news story:
- Jordan~ Usually the beacon of Christmas spirit beams from Fuheis, a majority-Christian town about 20 kilometers northwest of the Jordanian capital Amman. Normally known for their yearly tradition of the large holiday tree that is erected in the center of town, this is the first year there has not been one. Disappointed visitors and residents can istead travel to Madaba, another city in the south, to see an impressive tree display.
- Lebanon~ Malls feverishly compete for the most dazzling lights, the grandest tree and the most eye-catching technology. Social suicide is recycling last year’s decorations. Passersby are bombarded with a fusion of the strangest creations, with bigger being better. This year, Swarovski set up their towering tree in Zaytouna Bay, ornamented with the assured passersby taking snapshots by it. Nonetheless, the limits of a budget haven’t stopped anyone from joining in. A few too many shops make good use of a can of snow spray. Mini markets set up booths outside their shops, with synthetic trees and a-dollar-a-string lights scattered around to attract pedestrians.
Alrighty, Pita-consumers…even if you do not observe Christmas festivities, call your loved ones. Peace out~