A Muslim businessman erected the tallest Christmas tree in Baghdad as a show of solidarity with Iraqi Christians struggling during this holiday season.
Yassir Saad said he erected the tree in order to join “our Christian brothers in their holiday celebrations and helping Iraqis forget their anguish, especially the war in Mosul,” according to the Associated Press (AP). Mosul remains a flashpoint in the war between Iraqi state forces and the Islamic State (ISIS).
Saad told the AP the 85-foot-tall artificial tree, with a diameter of 33 feet, cost around $24,000. The tree is in the center of an amusement park in Iraq’s capital city.
“This tree represents love and peace,” teacher Saba Ismael told her visiting students. “I wish all Iraqi Christians could return to Iraq and live normal and peaceful lives.”
Iraq’s Christian community has dwindled since 2003. Of the estimated 1.2 million Christians living in the country then, fewer than 150,000 remain, Tina Ramirez, founder and executive director of the religious freedom nonprofit Hardwired, told PJ Media in January.
Christians were “specifically targeted by ISIS in Mosul and the surrounding villages…in June-August of 2014, causing the mass displacement of half a million people,” Ramirez said.
ISIS forces Christians to convert to Islam or pay the Jizya, a special religious tax. The group often confiscates their property. Many Christians have returned to villages outside of Mosul, only to find that their homes and churches have been ransacked.
While radical Islam has indeed inspired terror, there are hundreds of different Muslim groups, and many of them desire peace and co-existence with non-Muslims. This man’s generous act of celebrating Christmas in solidarity with the persecuted followers of Jesus proves that ISIS does not represent all Muslims.