Quite a lot happened around the world this Christmas Day—routine statements were made, victorious forces celebrated, and tragedies struck (or were averted).
Biblical lands and beyond
On the same day that the Catholic Pope called for an end to the bloodshed in Aleppo, Syria—where the army recently prevailed over rebel troops holding the city, a Russian military transport carrying the iconic Red Army Choir on its way to the airbase of Latakia in Syria crashed in the Black Sea, killing everyone (92 people) on board and crippling the Choir, according to preliminary reports.
But it’s just a terrible tragedy, the Russians say; the three-engined Tupolev passenger plane couldn’t have been hijacked since it was a military flight. This is small cause for relief in light of the recent revenge-for-Aleppo killing of Russia’s Turkey ambassador and the Islamist terror attack that killed twelve people at a traditional Christmas market in Berlin.
The truck attack, carried out by a Tunsian refugee and ISIS supporter, has soured the holiday atmosphere in the German capital. Though the perpetrator was found and shot dead by police as he fled though Italy, the 70-plus victims of the act have created a mixture of fear, anguish, and perhaps desire for justice.
In happier news, a massive blockbuster bomb, probably dropped by Allied planes in World War II, was dug up and harmlessly defused by German authorities in Augsburg, a city in the country’s south.
Not all is well in the birthplace of Christ as Israel contests an incoming UN resolution that will condemn as illegal Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory. Unlike previous years, the United States declined to veto the resolution in favor of its ally.
Meanwhile, some Iraqi Christians celebrated their first Christmas since 2013 as the national army and allied troops pushed out the forces of ISIS from the northern city of Mosul. The hard-fought battle lasted weeks and represents a major step to destroying the territorial base of the Islamic State.
Current trends and silent sorrows
Figures around the globe issued greetings statements for the holidays, some of it loaded. Jubilant over the election of his party’s US president candidate Donald Trump, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus incurred some scrutiny when he said that “this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King.”
The RNC clarified that Priebus meant the birth of Jesus, not the arrival of Trump, who was elected in large part due to his campaign’s successful outreach to millions of Americans disappointed with the political character and direction of the world’s most wealthy and powerful nation.
As for the President-elect himself, Trump issued routine Christmas and Hanukkah greetings from his vacation spot in Florida. President Barack Obama already made a Christmas statement on the holiday’s eve, congratulating US military personnel for their service.
Christmas has long outgrown its religious functions and taken root in East Asia, where people celebrate the holiday as a result of commercialization. This trope is subverted when it comes to those of faith in China and other countries where Christianity and other religions are kept under strict regime control or suppressed by the communist authorities.
For house Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan Buddhists, and others targeted for deadly persecution by the Chinese state security agencies, the ardors of the Messiahs and his disciples must ring all the more viscerally.