When many parts of the world, religiously affiliated or not, have been immersed in the Merry Christmas air, there are some tensions and miseries we can’t turn a blind eye to.
Pope Francis urged Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus by thinking about the plight of today’s children, bemoaning how some must escape bombs or flee in migrant boats and how others are prevented from being born at all.
Francis called for the faithful to not get caught up in the commercialization of Christmas — “when we are concerned for gifts but cold toward those who are marginalized.”
The festive atmosphere is felt across the globe.
In Athens, clear blue skies, festive decoration, Christmas lights, musical happenings and extended holiday season shopping hours have lured thousands of people to the commercial center of the city.
In Sri Lanka, a towering Christmas tree, claiming to have surpassed the world record, was unveiled, wowing people far and wide.
The 73-meter artificial tree in capital Colombo is 18 meters taller than the current record holder, organizers said. The tree’s steel-and-wire frame is covered with a plastic net decorated with more than 1 million natural pine cones painted red, gold, green and silver, 600,000 LED bulbs and topped by a 6-meter-tall shining star.
In London, Queen Elizabeth II will broadcast her Christmas message to her people, an annual tradition started on radio by her grandfather king George V in 1932.
“The message of Christmas reminds us that inspiration is a gift to be given as well as received, and that love begins small but always grows… I wish you all a very happy Christmas,” the 90-year-old monarch said, in the pre-recorded message.
In the southern hemisphere where the scorching sun dominates, Australia is seeing Santa Clauses dressed in shorts and walking in bare feet along the beaches to give out Christmas gifts.
However, amid the happiness, the Australian government has also asked people to be on alert in this festive season, urging locals to report any suspicious activity and unusual behavior in the wake of a foiled terror plot earlier this week.
A lorry ploughed into a crowd at a Christmas market in downtown Berlin on Monday night, killing 12 and injuring 50 others. Though it is relieving that the suspect Anis Amri was confirmed dead in a shootout with Italian police in Milan and would no longer pose a danger, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters on Friday that threats from extremists “remains high” in Germany and Berlin would not scale down security.
The Berlin truck terror attack is stretching the nerves of many countries celebrating the holiday officially, who keep reminding its people to stay vigilant while enjoying the festive season.
In France, where a more appalling truck crash masterminded by the Islamic State (ISIS) struck in its Rivera city of Nice on July 14 killed 86 people, an additional 3,000 military officers have been deployed to preserve calm during festive events across the romantic country where a state of emergency has been extended for the fifth time due to a persistent terror alert.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Czech Republic has ramped up security measures to ensure people’s safety during Christmas and New Year celebrations; Brussels has strengthened security measures at Christmas markets across the country whose terror alert level currently stands at 3, the second highest; Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on Saturday called on the Portuguese not to forget those people in war-torn areas at Christmas “who have no families or cannot be with their families,” stressing the dire need for peace.
In the United States, sporadic shootings and stabbings have claimed the lives of at least seven people across the country on Christmas eve, and left more injured.
For refugees begging for new life, Christmas sentiment is a luxury most of them couldn’t afford to expect under shadow of long-running conflicts.
At a shelter provided by the Red Cross in Rome, refugees with different nationalities, religious beliefs and ethnic backgrounds were treated with a feast dinner before Christmas eve.
“My Christmas wish is that my baby girl can accept proper education in Europe,” a young refugee mother who gave her name as Aisha told Xinhua correspondent.
“As for myself, I just want a quiet life,” she said with tears flashing.
The young mother has gone through a life-or-death journey from Eritrea to Italy, praying for a new life somewhere in Europe.
In Paris, refugees lined up before dawn in front of a humanitarian center in north Paris, hoping to get a place to sleep, an everyday scene in this chilly winter.
Refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan and other countries gather each day around the center in the evening, spending their night in the cold, hoping to be accepted in the morning.
Since the beginning of 2015, an unprecedented wave of refugees has come to Paris. As a result, train and subway stations in the city have become temporary refugee camps. Data in 2015 showed nearly 80,000 refugees asked for asylum in France, while only 26,700 got refugee status.
The entire Europe has grappled with the large influx of refugees since early 2014, the biggest wave of refugees the continent has received since World War II.
Despite the harsh reality, many refugees still expect Europe to bring them good luck and new life, a bitter-sweet wish yet to come true. Enditem
Source: Xinhua writer Wang Bowen/NewsGhana.com.gh