Throughout the last few hundred years, Europe has been a place where one could observe the most magical of Christmas scenes… to illustrate just how far we’ve fallen, it’s worth pointing out that one would find a more archetypal Christmas celebration in the Syrian city of Aleppo, rather than Frankfurt or Stockholm.
I have said for some time that while Bashar al-Assad is not exactly a saint or a schoolboy, he enjoys the support of an overwhelming majority of his countrymen, probably in part – maybe in large measure – because he is a secular, rather than militant Islamic extremist, ruler, who may not tolerate much in the way of dissent, but in exchange protects all of his people, including women, and minority religions like Christianity. And at the moment, it looks like he’s doing a better job of it than most European countries…
Throughout the last few hundred years, Europe has been a place where one could observe the most magical of Christmas scenes. From Germany’s bustling markets, to the snow of Scandinavia and the rich religious celebrations of the Catholic and Orthodox countries, it was never difficult to find a scene worthy of valuable postcard. Today, of course, things are much different. And to illustrate just how far we’ve fallen, it’s worth pointing out that one would find a more archetypal Christmas celebration in the Syrian city of Aleppo, rather than Frankfurt or Stockholm.
That’s right; Syria’s once war-ravaged city is today the scene of an archetypal Christmas. They erect a huge, wonderfully lit tree in the city’s central square, as various groups in Santa costumes and elf imitations are busily engaged in entertaining the children. Even the churches are full, with vicars and priests holding open, welcoming public services including midnight mass and family services on Christmas Eve. There are no barriers to prevent truck attacks, very few visible security officers and certainly none armed to the hilt, as we could easily expect to see in Birmingham or Berlin.
Of course, there was once a time when many wondered if Aleppo would ever celebrate Christmas again. From 2012 to late 2016, the city was occupied by “rebel” forces – such as the US-backed Free Syrian Army, and the internationally acclaimed White Helmets – who, despite their western supporters’ claims to the contrary, were effectively Sunni extremists in the mould of Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. Christmas was strictly forbidden, and Burkas rigorously enforced. Under the guise of “pro-democracy” demonstrations, the so-called rebel groups had established an Islamist regime in which Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities were treated no better than slaves.
Yet on 22nd December 2016, the Syrian Arab Army finally recaptured the city in its entirety. After permitting the rebels a route out of the city – when most commanders would have been more inclined toward total annihilation – Assad’s forces finally flushed the remaining Islamist pigs from the city, with the assistance of the Russian Air Force. And what was the first act of the authorities once liberation had been secured? Renovating the Mosques? No; celebrating Christmas. Reopening the churches, decorating the square, erecting the tree – all courtesy of Assad’s regime…
And the trend continues, this year, as the above Tweet indicates. As a different Twitter commenter posted,
Sadly, no, I do not.