By Youssef Boudlal
I remember the scene well. It was the day that I arrived at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing of Fishkhabour.
It seems entirely possible that Christopher Hitchens will be primarily remembered in America for his public atheism. I suspect Hitchens himself was surprised at how wildly popular God Is Not Great became, giving much-needed voice and ammunition to thousands of godless heathens in the land of the drive-through church.
(Photo: Pictures of victims killed in an attack of Our Lady of Salvation church shown there on Christmas Eve in Baghdad December 24, 2010/Mohammed Ameen)
Normally on Christmas Eve, Ban Zaki puts on festive clothes and takes her family to Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation church for lively holiday celebrations.
(Photo: Refugee Iraqi Christians attend a pre-Christmas mass at Chaldean Catholic church in Amman December 22, 2010/Ali Jarekji)
Some church leaders in Iraq have told Christians not to celebrate Christmas except with prayer after lethal attacks and continuing threats by militants against the Iraqi Christian community.
(Photo: Pilgrims gather between Imam Abbas and Imam Hussein shrines to mark Ashura in Kerbala, December 17, 2010/Mushtaq Muhammad)
More than two million Shi’ite pilgrims in Iraq’s holy city of Kerbala marked Ashura, commemorating the slaying of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussein at the battle of Kerbala in 680, with no major violence reported amid tight security. But Saudi security forces dispersed crowds of Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims after scuffles broke out in the holy city of Medina.
(Photo: An Iraqi Christian refugee lights candles at an Orthodox church in Amman on November 7, 2010 for victims of the attack on Our Lady of Salvation church of Baghdad on October 31/Ali Jarekji)
Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled their homes to semi-autonomous Kurdish areas and neighbouring countries since a Catholic church in Baghdad was attacked six weeks ago, the U.N. refugee agency has said.