Iraqi Christians celebrate Christmas one year after Daesh defeat

 

Reuters
December 25, 2018

War and sectarian conflict shrank Iraq’s Christian population from 1.5 million to about 400,000 after the US-led invasion in 2003
Iraq is home to many different eastern rite churches, both Catholic and Orthodox

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Christians quietly celebrated Christmas on Tuesday amid improved security, more than a year after the country declared victory over Daesh militants who threatened to end their 2,000-year history in Iraq.

Christianity in Iraq dates back to the first century of the Christian era, when the apostles Thomas and Thaddeus are believed to have preached the Gospel on the fertile flood plains of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates.

Iraq is home to many different eastern rite churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, traditionally a sign of the country’s ethnic and religious diversity.

But war and sectarian conflict shrank Iraq’s Christian population from 1.5 million to about 400,000 after the US-led invasion in 2003. Following the onslaught of Daesh in 2014 and the brutal three-year war that followed their numbers have fallen further, though it is not known exactly by how much.

In Baghdad, Christians celebrated mass on Tuesday morning — declared a national holiday by government — in churches decorated for Christmas. Once fearful, they said they were now hopeful, since conditions had improved.

“Of course we can say the security situation is better than in previous years,” said Father Basilius, leader of the St. George Chaldean Church in Baghdad where more than a hundred congregants attended Christmas mass.

“We enjoy security and stability mainly in Baghdad. In addition, Daesh was beaten.”

Iraq declared victory over the militants more than a year ago, but the damage done to Christian enclaves on the Nineveh Plains has been extensive.

In Qaraqosh, a town also known as Hamdaniya which lies 15 km (10 miles) west of Mosul, the damage is still visible.

At the city’s Immaculate Church, which belongs to the Syrian Catholic denomination and has not yet been rebuilt since the militants set it on fire in 2014, Christians gathered for midnight mass on Monday, surrounded by blackened walls still tagged with Daesh graffiti.

Dozens of worshippers prayed and received communion, and then gathered around the traditional bonfire in the church’s courtyard.
Before the militant onslaught, Qaraqosh was the largest Christian settlement in Iraq, with a population of more than 50,000. But today only a few hundred families have returned.

Faced with a choice to convert, pay a tax or die, many Christians in the Nineveh Plains fled to nearby towns and cities and some eventually moved abroad.

Some have since returned, Father Butros said, adding: “We hope that all displaced families will return.”

source:

A man dressed in a Santa Claus outfit touring a popular neighborhood on the outskirts of the Iraqi central city of Najaf, takes children on a ride in a tuktuk on December 25, 2018. (AFP)

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1425746/middle-east

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.