Let’s give a thought for the women and children of Syria, the country where Christianity first took hold and which gifted the word the great apostle Paul.
Christmas 1942. As the Wehrmacht pulverize all before them, German radio brings greetings to the home front from all of the Reich’s forces, from Ice Seaport Liinakhamari, from Stalingrad on the Volga front, from the Lapland front in the Finnish winter empire, from the navy and the army in southern France, from the French Riviera, from Leningrad, from the Caucasus front, from the Mediterranean front and Africa, from Crete and finally back to the Black Sea Port on the Crimean peninsula, whose soldiers and sailors asked “you comrades, please sing with us the beautiful old German Christmas carol Silent Night”, Stille Nacht, that greatest and most beloved of all Austro-German carols.
Although their rendition was not quite up there musically with this effort by the Vienna Boys’Choir, it had its own brilliance for here were the soldiers of the Reich crackling over the wireless to bring Christmas cheer to their loved ones back home. There was, alas, one fly in the ointment not only in Stalingrad but along the entire Russian front. The German soldiers were freezing their nuts off and, in Stalingrad at least, radio contact had already been lost. They had more immediate concerns than to take part in Goebbels’ circus.
Germany’s embattled soldiers were not the last to freeze to death at Christmas. Although we are bombarded with news of how NATO’s front line soldiers are freezing their nuts off in Kiev, let’s give a thought for the women and children of Syria, the country where Christianity first took hold and which gifted the word the great apostle Paul, as well as a host of cultural riches that need not detain us here but which William Dalrymple’s From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium sketches in all its brilliant majesty.
Syria has never been as bad as it is this Yuletide. It is out of fuel and heating oil. Its government has shut down the schools and offices for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in an effort to conserve fuel and it has likewise banned all sporting and cultural events in an effort to conserve transportation fuel. Its diesel powered generators are silent as they lack fuel to fire them up.
For Syria’s Christians, it is a Stille Nacht, a silent good night where they must freeze to death as NATO’s NGOs pump billions more into Clown Prince Zelensky and other fraudsters, who care no more about their own freezing citizens than do any other of NATO’s amoral gangsters.
To Syria’s south, I spent some of my more memorable Christmases on the Palestinian West Bank, in Ramallah and Taybeh where little Christian angels told me, after Midnight Mass, that they hoped to emigrate to Chile when they grew up as there was life without Israeli bullies there.
And in a refugee camp in Bethlehem where baby Jesus was born. What a Christmas, what a silent night that was, going down to the Israeli checkpoint at 3am, watching Palestinian Christians and Muslims, exhausted from decades of deprivation, shuffling in to work, exactly like they were prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp.
Meeting Palestinian farmers who had to camp in their fields so Israelis would not rob yet more of their land. And watching a Palestinian child enthuse about seeing a chicken in a Hebron cage, the nearest he’d ever come to enjoy the childish delights of visiting a zoo. Hebron where a London Jew bottled me and Bil’in where an Israeli soldier shot me. O Holy Night!
Oh Silent Night, that most brilliantly, symmetrically-written of all God’s hymns which is so well-crafted that only that last paragraph of James Joyce’s The Dead can match its eloquence.
Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, further westwards, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling too upon every part of the lonely churchyard where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
I wonder if this Christmas we will enjoy a white, pagan Christmas, if snow will be general all over Ireland, if it will fall on Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison, where Evangelical Christian Enoch Burke is a political prisoner, if it will fall further eastwards on the dark mutinous waves of the Irish Sea, if it will fall too upon every part of Belmarsh Prison where political prisoner Julian Assange lies out of sight and out of mind and even further eastwards to the great eternal city of Rome where Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi message can center-stage the oppressed children of the world, of those in Belmarsh, Bethlehem, Damascus, Donbass and all other places who are condemned by NATO to freeze to death on this holy night, this silent night.