“When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under…”
THIS Biblical passage is one of the lesser known parts of the Christmas story. There are no carols sung about this event, no symbolic decorations made and I have never seen a panorama next to the Christmas tree of soldiers ripping babies from their mothers’ arms.
We prefer to focus on the positive message that Christmas brings. However, we must remember that the joy is always born out of the hopelessness of real and present evil.
The passage continues on and we see the Holy family fleeing to Egypt with the new-born babe to protect Him from Herod. They travel 500kms on foot and only return once the threat is over.
This Christmas there are many families following this similar path to refuge as they head west out of the Middle East. Only now it is not just children under two and the crimes of Herod’s time seem to pale in comparison to the current situation. Whole communities in Iraq and Syria are being targetted, with mass murder, torture, systematic rape and sexual enslavement being widely reported. This is happening right now, while we put up coloured lights and plan our Christmas feasts.
ISIS has been carrying out this “campaign” against Christians, Yazidis, Shias and other minorities for two years and there is only one word for it: Genocide.
The UN Commission of Inquiry, the US Congress, European Parliament and UK House of Commons have all recognised and used this word. Australia has yet to join the chorus of condemnation, but it is currently before the House of Representatives for debate.
So, why bring such a dark and depressing message at what usually is a time of celebration and forgetting of troubles? Well, because this is what the Christmas story is actually about: God enters our world of evil and despair and walks among it. He faces our storms, embraces our broken and cries with those who have lost. Ultimately, he experiences the full force of torture and suffering Himself, only to overcome and bring the fullest light where there was only darkness before.
Quite simply, this is what we are also called to. The generous provision we have received in our lives is not just luck, but rather carries with it a responsibility. If we neglect this aspect of Christmas, the imperative to seek out and serve those who are struggling and facing evil, then our reflections in the shiny Christmas baubles will not be the only distorted image.
Sign the petition at acl.org.au/stopthegenocide
Nick Jensen is the director of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, which helps develop leaders in public policy (lmi.org.au).