Iraq’s Christians once numbered about 1.5 million. There are now believed to be less than 500,000 out of a population estimated at 32 million, according to the US State Department’s 2013 International Religious Freedom Report.
(Reuters) – Baghdad’s embattled Christian community worshipped defiantly Wednesday night at Christmas Eve mass.
“The recent conditions have left us with a bit of sadness for our brethren, be they Christian or non-Christian, those who were displaced and harmed.”
The pews filled at Baghdad’s Sacred Heart church, as people remembered the darkest year in memory.
Blast walls shielded the church and seven policeman flanked the outside of the house of worship, in an indication of the government’s fear of an attack on the religious groups by jihadists who consider them non-believers.
“Christianity is the religion of peace and we pray for these people to return to their homes. We pray for all evil to vanish.”
The congregation sang in unison: “Praise Jesus, our Lord. Oh praise him” as incense burnt in the darkened church.
“We celebrate the happiness of Christmas, but deep inside we carry the sadness of Iraq.”
The worshippers paid tribute to the thousands of Christians displaced this summer in northern Iraq when Islamic State seized the city of Mosul in June and in August pushed on toward Iraqi Kurdistan, over-running Christian towns on the Nineveh plain. Read the rest of this entry »