A Muslim Iraqi businessman has constructed the tallest Christmas tree in Baghdad as a symbol of solidarity with Christians. and as a way to help fellow Iraqis receive comfort for the violence in Mosul. .
Yassir Saad has constructed a $24,000 tree that is 85 feet tall and 33 feet wide. The tallest in Baghdad, it stands right at the heart of an amusement park in the city.
Saad said the tree is a way of "joining our Christian brothers in their holiday celebrations and helping Iraqis forget their anguish, especially the war in Mosul," Associated Press reported.
Saba Ismael, a teacher who visited the site with her students, said the tree “represents love and peace.”
"I wish all Iraqi Christians could return to Iraq and live normal and peaceful lives," she said, referring to the war-torn city of Mosul and its surrounding areas that have been seized by ISIS in 2014.
Many Christians have fled the city, and those who stayed were left with only two options: convert to Islam or remain a Christian but pay “taxes” to the extremist group. Those who chose neither were killed.
On October this year, Iraqi-led forces, together with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Shia militiamen and Sunni Arab tribesmen, launched an offensive to retake Mosul and other northern Iraq territories from ISIS. The offensive has caused thousands more Iraqis to flee the battle, according to BBC.
The offensive has caused ISIS to lose some of the territory they had seized.
A report prepared jointly by the Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians showed that the number of Christians in Iraq has dropped by 80 percent in a decade. From 1.4 million in 2003, now there are only about 275,000 Christians in the country, according to Breitbart.
Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, said the recent hardships faced by Christians in Iraq were the “worst acts of genocide.” The bishop also said that with ISIS aiming to eradicate Christians, Christianity as a religion is in danger of being extinct in Iraq.
As the military offensive continues to advance toward Mosul, an estimated 1.5 million civilians who are in the city face constant threat from the Islamist extremists. The United Nations said ISIS has been killing civilians as the battle escalates.
With a number of areas outside Mosul reclaimed from ISIS, some Christians have come back to their villages. However, their homes and even churches have been looted.
Under such a gloomy reality, the giant Christmas tree in Baghdad helps bring hope to the hearts of those who have been affected by the violence.