In defiance of ISIL, Iraqis celebrate Christmas alongside Christian brothers

Dozens of Iraqi activists kicked off on Thursday (December 11th) a campaign titled " Nuun " to celebrate Christmas and New Year's alongside Iraqi Christians in response to the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's" (ISIL) crimes against them in northern Iraq. 

The campaign, co-organised by three youth organisations that include dozens of activists in Baghdad, Basra and northern Iraq, aims to support Christian Iraqis and encourage them to hold and expand Christmas and New Year's celebrations this year in response to ISIL attacks against them, said the campaign's director, journalist and rights activist Ihab Ahmed. 

"ISIL has expelled our brothers in this country who are currently in displacement camps far from their cities," he said. "We seek to help them hold their ceremonies and celebrations at their current locations and send ISIL a message that this country is too great to be ruled by backward murderers like them." 

"Mobile bells have been provided in several cities across the country, to be rung on this occasion in defiance of this terror group, emphasising internal peace and coexistence in Iraq, which extremists aim to undo," he said. 

Nizar al-Baghdadi, director of the Baghdad Organisation for Human Development, said the campaign included five different activities, among them celebrations at displacement camps that host Christian families and the distribution of small- and medium-sized bells to be rung in defiance of ISIL. 

Campaigners also placed ornaments and decorative lights in Baghdad and other cities and hold small celebrations in a number of streets, to be announced a day before they take place for security reasons, he said. 

In addition, volunteers will distribute gifts to displaced Christian children in camps and wherever else they reside, he said. A number of Muslim families in Baghdad have decided to host Christian families living in camps for Christmas celebrations out of respect and solidarity with them, al-Baghdadi told Mawtani. 

"We hope this initiative becomes something that all Baghdad families who have large houses will adopt," he added. Baghdad activist Shaimaa Hamdi said that more than 70 young Iraqi men and women from various sects and faiths had so far taken part in the campaign, in the hopes it would deliver a meaningful message. 

"Our message is that ISIL and its likes will sooner or later go away but we are here to stay," she added. "Therefore, we need to think about reconciling with each other before anything else since we are brothers and we all must help one another." 

Hamdi said the campaign had been making an impact on Iraqi society, "as we have received dozens of requests from young men and women to join multiple campaign activities, welcoming the idea behind it. We therefore expect the campaign to grow to other cities." 

The Iraqi government also welcomes the campaign, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq told Mawtani. Any popular effort to promote peace and co-existence among Iraqis is crucial to Iraq's war on terrorism and its quest to achieve security and full stability, he added. 

"The government will provide everything needed by the young people who are holding the campaign, and gladly so," he said. "Such campaigns and initiatives help abolish the sectarianism, racism and internal strife propagated by terror groups and show that the people are truly one people," al-Mutlaq said. 

By Hassan al-Obaidi

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