Turkey: Muslim children enjoy visit to Christmas crib

 In Antioch, southern Turkey, Christmas is an ordinary working day. As 99% of the population is Muslim there are no decorations on the streets, no rush of last minute shopping for presents. But the minority Christians decorate their homes and churches in preparation for the great day, and many Muslim people enjoy visiting the Christmas cribs. Mariagrazia Zambon, a lay woman in the Catholic community in Antioch, told Fides news service about her Christmas. She said: "Our Nativity Scene is an attraction for people of all ages, a reminder of an historical event of universal importance. Christians and non Christians make a point of visiting the Catholic church here. While in Italy there is talk of removing such Christian symbols from schools, here school children love to gather around the manger to see the Christ Child and admire the birth of this great prophet, asking many questions about angels, candles, the stable. "Every year the miracle happens. There are Christmas trees and lights in the halls and the Nativity scene in the church is ready. A group of school children in uniform is already at the door. They have come from the other side of town, on foot braving the cold and the traffic because the city council provides no bus. They come from a poor district in the new part of the town: many are without a coat, or socks and their worn shoes are three sizes too large. Of course none of the children are Christians." A teacher told me: 'We would like to see the church and the Nativity scene. The children have never been before. We know Christmas is an important feast for you and we want to share it with you.; "I put on the lights and the spectacle begins, a simple scene with only a few figures, the sheep and the angels, paper mountains, the stable in wood: the children are enthralled. The teacher, also Muslim told them: 'At Christmas Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus a prophet sent by God to bring peace, love and brotherhood to the world and teach us to love one another. And we should imitate him if we want to do the will of God. Jesus was a good person and the shepherds knew this and went see him and praise God.' "Not a word, their eyes and mouths open wide, captivated by the lights and the statues the children are the first little adorers of our Messiah! Many other school groups will follow in the days to come. Why do they come, what do they want to see? "The adults are even more intrigued by the mystery of the Nativity, anxious to know more about this God born in a stable who comes to transform life bringing love and peace even to the most troubled hearts. Many will come to see this new born prophet so special and powerful for Christians. "Even for the chief of police and other leading citizens a visit to the Nativity scene is a traditional appointment on Christmas Day, a working day, busy as usual." Source: Fides

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