03 January 2015

Iran and the spirit of Christmas

It should not be lost on people that on the approach of the Nativity of Our Lord (or the actual Christmas feast for my gentle readers on the Gregorian calendar), when the magi of Iran came to Jerusalem bearing gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh to Our Lord the newborn Messiah, the Iranian Red Crescent has agreed, following an appeal by Iranian parliamentarian Yonatan Betkolia, to send a significant aid convoy to the beleaguered Christians of Iraq, including those who are refugees in Kurdistan. Mr. Betkolia has noted also that the Iranian government regularly sends aid to the Christians of Iraq, with special care and attention to refugees.

For one thing, Iran still holds with pride that it is the land of Cyrus the Great, the Anointed One spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, who himself was the guarantor of the rights of religious minorities, the defender of the persecuted and the champion of the displaced and the dispossessed. The spirit of the zeal for truth in Iran, kindled under the Zoroastrian emperors of old and kept burning with the ‘red’ Shi’ites spoken of by Dr. Ali Shariati, still aspires to this goal. Iran, even under their current highly-flawed theocratic government, has never truly forgotten the legacy of the Magi, who came to visit Our Lord when he was born to a poor displaced refugee mother from Egypt, who couldn’t even manage to stay at an inn, and who gave him rich gifts and adulation. Iran’s government is in permanent contact with the Vatican in order to coordinate its aid programmes. Though the people follow Shi’a Islam, who is to condemn the faith of those who feed the hungry, warm the cold and give shelter to the homeless? Especially we, who live under a government which has done so much to add to the sufferings and the sorrows of the Iraqi people.

It is hard for me to shake the suspicion that when the Day of Judgement comes, the people of Iran will stand in far better stead with the Lord for the fruits of their faith than we will. For then as now, also as the Lord spoke in the Gospel of S. Matthew: the Iranian people saw the Lord hungry and gave him food; they saw the Lord homeless and they gave him shelter; they saw the Lord naked and they gave him clothing. May God bless Iran for their selflessness!

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