A new wave of explosions and shootings killed or wounded dozens of Iraqis on Easter Sunday as the Christian minority celebrated the holy day, praying that this would be the last year they live through the violence and terrorism gripping their country.
Early Sunday, thousands of Christians throughout Iraq went to Easter Mass and some churches were uncommonly full. In recent years, after attacks on dozens of churches, attendance had fallen off dramatically.
St. Joseph Chaldean Church in central Baghdad was jammed with more than 1,000 people. Many had to stand through the service.
Security was tight outside the church. Every man entering the church was searched. Police cars blocked both ends of the street to prevent car bombs.
During the mass, Shiite Muslim leader Ammar al-Hakim, son of the head of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite political organization, walked into the church. Father Louis al-Shabi, the chief priest at St. Joseph, escorted al-Hakim to a seat near the alter.
“Sheik al-Hakim came to join us in our celebrations as we mark this feast,” al-Shabi told the worshippers. “We welcome this visit as a display of unity among the Iraqi people.”
Al-Hakim responded, “We are all the sons of Iraq, and we should put our hands together to build this country. We are confident that the Iraqi people will come out of this crisis and our pain will end.”
Thanks and Praise: I photographed men and women, both Christians and Muslims, placing a cross atop the St. John’s Church in Baghdad. They had taken the cross from storage and a man washed it before carrying it up to the dome.
A Muslim man had invited the American soldiers from “Chosen” Company 2-12 Cavalry to the church, where I videotaped as Muslims and Christians worked and rejoiced at the reopening of St John’s, an occasion all viewed as a sign of hope.
The Iraqis asked me to convey a message of thanks to the American people. ” Thank you, thank you,” the people were saying. One man said, “Thank you for peace.” Another man, a Muslim, said “All the people, all the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother.” The men and women were holding bells, and for the first time in memory freedom rang over the ravaged land between two rivers.
Yes, Christian persecution remains rampant in the Muslim world and apostasy is still punishable by death. But there are glimmers of good news, and they won’t be broadcast on the nightly news or the front page of the NYTimes. Thanks to the lens of Michael Yon, we can see a fuller, truer picture of Iraq than the “grim milestone”-driven legacy media lens allows us to see. That deserves thanks and praise, too.
“What I see in this picture is something more than a historic moment – I don’t even know if that’s what some would call it – I see the sort of thing people do when they are neighbors, when they are working together for their neighborhood, for the good of all who live there, and that to me makes it seem less “historic” than calmly, wonderfully normal, ordinary, sane and wholesome.”