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Who Took Christ Out of Christmas?

By Farnaz Farrokhi
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Christmas is a Christian tradition that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Why is political correctness challenging this tradition and trying to "protect" people of other faiths from being offended?

It causes me, an immigrant to this beautiful country, concern that Canada has become so politically correct that we are seemingly unwilling to acknowledge Christmas. I am not the only immigrant to notice this development. Others do too. "...This whole let's be politically correct' thing it's getting out of hand," says Shahed Khalili who immigrated to Canada from an Islamic Republic.

When he was ten years old, living in Iran, one of his father's friends invited their family for a Christmas celebration. Mr. Khalili considers himself an atheist -- a man of science -- yet he has fond memories of the Masihies (Iranian Christians) who invited his family over for Christmas. He remembers enjoying the aroma of fresh pine from the Christmas tree that filled the living room and the shiny ornaments and lights that surrounded it. And he said, "of course the presents weren't bad either."

Indeed Christmas is celebrated in Iran - the same country where Islamic extremists have carried out their agenda to ensure the supremacy of Islam and of Sharia law.

Mr. Khalili's first Christmas in Canada was entirely different. The music, crowds, and materialism in the malls troubled him. He says he didn't feel the "Christmas Spirit" many Canadians speak of.

Mr. Khalili has been in Canada ten years now. Since then, he has seen a shift in behaviour due to political correctness: "Businesses can decorate their stores however they want, but...Christians, who celebrate Christmas, can't say Merry Christmas, or [display] Jesus in a manger because it may be politically incorrect."

Hafeez Merani, who is a second year student at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto and an active member within the Ismali community says, "We know Canada is primarily an Anglo-Christian society, so we don't get offended at all if someone says to us Merry Christmas. We actually expect it."

Mr. Merani is correct. Canada is a nation with strong Judeo-Christian roots. According to Stats Canada, seven out of every ten Canadians are from Roman Catholic or Protestant backgrounds. These two groups combined represent approximately 72 percent of the population.

The 2001 Census on Religions in Canada recorded an increase in those reporting they were "Christian," without specifying whether they were Catholic, Protestant or Christian Orthodox. The numbers in this group more than doubled (+121 percent) during this decade to 780,400, representing 2.6 percent of the population in 2001. As a result, this group had one of the largest percentage increases among all major religious groups.

Surprisingly, the number of people who identified themselves as Hindu, Sikh, or Buddhist was low. Each group only accounted for one percent of the population. Muslims accounted for two percent.

Canada is increasingly a multicultural society, but many visitors and immigrants to Canada find it disappointing that Canada is losing the essence of who she is -- the very thing that captivated their hearts -- her Christian values.

Susan Thomas who works at a college in Toronto says many international students come to Canada specifically to experience Canadian culture.

"Most of them grew up learning about Christmas through movies. They came to North America [expecting] to experience...Christmas: Jesus in a manager, family and friends gathered around the Christmas tree, ice skating, and singing Christmas carols.... These students...don't understand why Canada's become so politically correct' [concerning] Christmas."

Sahar Khalili, a Vancouver Islamic Sufism school student, is disappointed. She believes Canadians should be celebrating Christmas during the Christmas season. "Christmas is a publicly recognized national holiday, in Canada. Season's Greetings', Happy Holidays', or X-mass' are not. [It is a great shame] that in Canada where Christmas has [always] been celebrated...this holiday's name is being changed."

Ms. Khalili is also concerned that some Christians are capitulating to political correctness during this time of year: "Christmas is a Christian holiday. They are supposed to say Merry Christmas. If they don't, then they aren't honouring their beliefs. I want to hear Merry Christmas so I can say Merry Christmas back." She realizes that some people may be offended with the greeting. "If they are offended and don't want to celebrate Christmas, they should go to work on Christmas day or do what I do - go skiing!"

Ms. Shabnam Abedi, a Muslim who grew up in Iran, also agrees. "The holiday is Christmas. If people have other faiths or beliefs, they shouldn't get upset or offended. Christmas is for Christians who want to celebrate something that's very important to them."

I have personally lived in Canada 20 years, but this year's Christmas experience was most memorable.

On December 12th I was at Saint Alban's Anglican Church, Ottawa the church of Sir John Alexander MacDonald, Canada's first Prime Minister. The parish gathered for dinner. Following dinner we met in the sanctuary and sang Christmas carols.

The Rector, Father George Sinclair called out to the congregation, "What do you want to sing next?" People joyfully responded with their selected songs. Hymnal pages turned and we sang. Children sang off key and as the candy was passed around, lost the "key" entirely.

After the caroling we enjoyed an assortment of homemade desserts along with traditional hot apple cider served by associate pastor Rev. David Scott Robinson. The love of Jesus was everywhere as people embraced one another and said, "Peace of Christ and Merry Christmas to you."

How tragic for our country to forfeit Christ and the rich traditions of Christmas for political correctness that pleases very few.

Ms. Farnaz Farrokhi was born in Iran the day Iran was declared an Islamic Republic. When she was seven years old, her family fled the country. The Farrokhi's are proud Canadians, thankful for a chance to live in a peaceful country. Ms. Farrokhi's experiences have opened her eyes to injustices against women and children. She has therefore become a humanitarian and staunch advocate for ending Human Trafficking. Ms. Farrokhi became a devoted Christ-follower in 2005 and currently resides and works in Ottawa.

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