ABC News' Christiane Amanpour: Not your ordinary Christmases

The international journalist offers insights into the worlds that filled her childhood and give her a unique perspective on the Middle East

Continued from page 1

Did her very Christian-sounding first name cause problems as a child? After all, “Christiane” is not at all Iranian nor Islamic.

“It really didn’t,” she says. “My mother is Catholic, my father Muslim and so I’ve grown up with both faiths – and I happen to be married to a man who’s Jewish. So, I have all three faiths running right through my immediate family. It taught me tolerance. It taught me that all three faiths can exist together because we have so much in common.”

Today as Iranian-built rockets pound Israeli neighborhoods, as Israeli helicopter gunships rain death and destruction on Gaza, as civil war rages just miles away in Syria and Iran’s leaders are blamed for

arming many of the combatants, is tolerance still possible?

Filming the ABC Special at Luxor Temple. Photo by Shawn Baldwin, ABC News

“We have more in common than what divides us,” says Amanpour. “But, of course, over recent years, what divides us is more in the forefront — and is being used, I think, by those who would use religion as a political weapon.

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“I grew up in Iran until the Islamic revolution in 1979 and it was not yet fundamentalist. The regime was not one that used Islam as the law of the land. Women were free. There was poverty and the difficulties of the oppression that poverty brings. Also it wasn’t a democracy.”

Her parents sent her to boarding school when she was 11, but still she came home for holidays.

“For me it was not difficult,” she recalls. “We went to church, the faiths were respected and actually, you know what, there are still Christian churches in Iran and there are still Jewish Synagogues” – although thousands of Iranian Christians and Jews have since escaped the country. Her own family fled amid the chaos of the Iranian Revolution and the imposition of strict Muslim law administered by ulema – the Shi’ia clergy from local mosques – and rigidly enforced by religious police. Brief trials lacking defense attorneys, juries, transparency or opportunity for the accused to defend themselves were held by shari’a-enforcing Islamic judges. Amnesty International documented 2,946 executions in the first two years for everything from drug and sexual offenses to “corruption on earth.”

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