As a gesture of solidarity with Christians an Iraqi Muslim businessman Yasir Shah has erected the tallest Christmas tree in Baghdad marking the festive season. While talking to media, Yasir Shah said that the intention behind the initiative was “joining our Christian brothers in their holiday celebrations and helping Iraqis forget their anguish.” At the same time, he made mention of the war terror group ISIS had made in Mosul – a city once inhabited by a large number of Christians.
The Christmas tree erected in Baghdad is 85-feet-tall artificial tree, with a diameter of 33 feet (10 meters). This tree has been erected right in the center of the Al-Zawra amusement park in Baghdad. Yasir Shah said that the total cost in erecting the Christmas tree is around $24,000.
One of the visitors of the park Saba Ismael –a teacher who had brought his students to the park said, “This tree represents love and peace. I wish all Iraqi Christians could return to Iraq and live normal and peaceful lives.”
Ever since the advance of terror group Islamic State, Christians have fled Mosul and other parts of the country. Christians have been targeted by the militants, resulting in massive exodus of Christians. Militants had offered three options to Christians including convert to Islam, pay jaziya or die. Following recent military offensive against ISIS, the militants have retreated which resulted in some Christians returning to their homes.
United States Commission of International Religious Freedom’s report: “ Iraq’s religious freedom climate continued to deteriorate in 2015, especially in areas under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). ISIL targets anyone who does not espouse its extremist Islamist ideology, but minority religious and ethnic communities, including the Christian, Yazidi, Shi’a, Turkmen, and Shabak communities, are especially vulnerable. In 2015, USCIRF concluded that ISIL was committing genocide against these groups, and crimes against humanity against these and other groups.”