Shia Girls Singing Christmas Carols in Lebanese Church

A message from this past Christmas, from Lebanon: here’s a video of Shia orphan girls performing Christmas carols in the Saint-Elie church in Beirut.

Happy coexistence everyone, enjoy the music!

Happy Assyrian New Year!

Yesterday it was the Assyrian New Year, the year of 6766. Happy Assyrian New Year, everyone!

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The Iraqi and the Assyrian flag

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Girls in traditional Assyrian dresses

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Photo credits: Tourism in Iraq and Assyrian National National Library

 

 

Christmas in Baghdad

Christmas Eve yesterday in Baghdad, Iraq. The photos are from the Iraqi photographer Ahmad Mousa, founder of the @everydayiraq project. The captions are the original ones from Ahmad Mousa’s Facebookpage.

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Iraqi Christian girls light candles on Christmas Eve at a church in Baghdad

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Christmas mass in Baghdad, at Our Lady of Salvation church

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Christmas mass in Baghdad, Iraq

Assyrian Church in the Mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan

In the area of Barwar in Dohuk governorate, northern Iraqi Kurdistan, the Assyrian minority that is dominating in the villages has made their mark throughout the history.

In one of the caves in the mountains a small church has been carved out. There is no way to reach the Marqa Yoma church by car – you have to climb the mountain to get there.

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Nature is amazing due to the water wells.

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Can you see the small church in the middle of the photo below?

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It takes time to reach and it’s closed most of the time, one of the women in the village has the key.

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One small room…

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…and Assyrians from other parts of Iraq that have chosen to be buried next to the church in the mountains. For a minority that has survived several massacres, fleeing from place to place, it can feel good to finally come home.

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Photos: Copyright Sweden and the Middle East Views Blog

We are All Losers – Some Thoughts After the Nairobi Attacks

Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this post in my blog as the terrorist attacks in Nairobi has nothing to do with neither the Middle East nor Sweden, but I as I have a huge interest for tolerance and intolerance I decided to give myself the freedom to do so.

When the news broke on how one or more British converts were involved, I felt my spirit drop down low. Not again. Some confused, troubled Westerners who gets involved with outcast groups in deprived areas where they incite each other against a common enemy, and puts each other on a derailed train track, heading for disaster where they selfishly are pulling masses of people with them: not only the direct victims of terrorist attacks and their families, but us normal, regular people who are trying to live our everyday lives side by side; Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists and other religions alike.

Do these people even read Arabic? Did they open the holy book of the religion they claim to follow or did they listen to same tape-recorded message by one of the underground group fanatic leaders who probably didn’t read the book himself but was happy to call himself a Muslim since he wore short jeans over the ankles and refused to sit next to a woman on the public subway? In all religions there are numerous of books discussing the different aspects of this religion, new publications are printed each year, seminars are being held among people who wants to discuss religions on an intellectual level, and Islam is not an exception. But the converts are happy with their downsized watery version boiled down to hate.

These people should be charged with crimes against humanity, because whatever was difficult before the attack will be much worse after. In my country I know what will happen. Our national pride and joy Sverigedemokraterna will gain more votes in next year’s election. My veiled neighbor will be surprised I help her up the stairs with her baby and stroller. People will ask how I can invite both my Jewish and Muslim friends to one of my dinner parties.

When reading blogs under the tags of tolerance and intolerance you find the most horrible people out there, hating from all sides. With the ending of this post I would like to target a subcategory within this category, the one of fanatics in line with the Nairobi bombers:

Even if you don’t care about the importance of coexistence, you just made life a little more impossible for your fellow Muslims in the West. Congratulations. Or if you can read Arabic: مبروك

First Civil Marriage Registered in Lebanon

mixed loveSo this week all Middle Eastern-freaks like me noticed that the first couple ever were able to register their marriage as a civil marriage in Lebanon – something that mixed couples have been advocating for ages. Cyprus have been the choice for many mixed Lebanese couples if they had the money – otherwise one of them had to resign to marry under their partner’s religion (usually the man’s).

I meet people that says “it’s not possible” about interfaith marriages. Why? Some religions don’t accept it; sometimes the two religions clash when it comes to the childrens’ religion (in Judaism the children inherits the mother’s reigion and in Islam the father’s – so what happens if a Jewish woman marries a Muslim man?); sometimes it’s simply the society and family that says “it’s not possible”.

Well I have come across so many mixed marriages that I can conclude one thing in this messy discussion: you can’t make people stay away from each other. As often as societies puts up rules for love, there’s always someone that will break them.

A Swedish-Lebanese family that I know were so determined to stay together that they married in the midst of the civil war, despite the danger of being a mixed Christan-Muslim couple. During the first years of their small children’s lives they were living in hiding from militias, until finally being able to escape to Sweden. They now have three children that has been raised celebrating Christmas and Ramadan, learning about both religions, and they take pride in their mixed background. Sometimes maybe a mixed marriage is the best way of preventing a civil war? Unfortunately Lebanon is still a place where such an effort is extremely difficult to carry out.

So when the news about the registered marriage broke, I hurried to get online. What kind of groundbreaking couple was it that decided to make a point out of not register in one religion? Maybe a Muslim-Christian couple? If not, could it be Druze-Christian? No, it was a Sunni-Shia couple – two branches within one religion. Not accepted by everyone, but not the major breakthrough that I had hoped for. If it was, I’m not sure that they would have been able to have the marriage registered.

But let’s hope it’s a first step for Lebanon to heal from it’s intolerant past and the horrifying events that took place under the excuse of sectarian divisions. If Lebanon really wants to move on, there’s only one way, the way forward.

Photo credit: www.biculturalmom.com

Party with the Different

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Last weekend me and some friends threw a party at my place to celebrate an achievement, it was real fun thanks to my friends bringing foods and hookah (water pipe), even a small baby that everyone could grab and cuddle with, so that I could focus on trying to wear my new heels and look good (hey, I’m being honest). I happen to have ended up with friends and acquintances that ranges from very liberal to very conservative and I invite them all. Someone who believes in the clash of civilizations probably wouldn’t think my parties was a great idea.

But not all of my friends drink alcohol and they show up anyways, the hookah keeping them busy. Not everyone eat pork so we skip that, just so that noone will eat it by mistake. I also have friends from different religions and people sometimes hold biases, but I can’t let that come between an invitation. Very few are free from prejudices (including myself) and I just let people meet and figure out who that other person is for themselves. Ofcourse I don’t put up with everything: if you are too judgemental on a woman wearing the hijab and therefore is surpressed; being a Jew and therefore hate Arabs; being an ignorant Swede who doesn’t like foreigners – I get exhausted. But I’ve also seen persons change and reconsider their stereotypes – it’s sometimes painful to realize what you have been thinking, but it can also be a wonderful feeling to let go of your prejudices (sometimes prejudices contains a lot of anger).

I’m not saying it’s easy, it’s sometimes a mine field and many times I become sad by the force in how much some dislike each other and try to convince others to follow. But so far I haven’t caved in when it comes to the parties at my place. I believe in people.

Photo: Copyright Sweden and the Middle East Blog