domenica, dicembre 25, 2011


Christians in Iraq find reasons to celebrate

by Michael Holmes

Christmas approaches and Iraqi Christians pray for peace, goodwill - and that they'll make it till next Christmas alive.
Outside, police and church security on high alert… being a Christian in Iraq is enough to cost you your life. "I was kidnapped in 2006 from my church… "
Father Saad Sirop Hanna was held by Muslim extremists for 28 days.
"(Did you think you would die?) Yes, yes. Sometimes, actually, that's right."
Hundreds of other Christians have died. Throughout the war, dozens of churches have been bombed, priests and parishioners abducted, the homes of the faithful attacked.
Last year, in October, the worst attack so far was when gunman stormed a Baghdad church, taking the congregation hostage and detonating bombs. More than 50 worshipers died.
Back at St Joseph's, Father Sirop Hanna says there will be a Christmas tree inside this year, no decorations outside. It would be inviting trouble to a church that received it's most recent threat this month.
Today, the faithful came regardless, defiantly celebrating their religion, while acknowledging it could come with a heavy price.
"The whole way to church I pray for our safety and now going home in the dark is scary, but I feel that God is with us."
"We don't go to church very much now, out of fear of terrorism bombings. All our family left to America, Sweden, Canada - there is no one left," said Luma Ihsan, an Iraqi Christian.
Ihsan's relatives aren't the only ones. Once, Iraq had nearly a million Christians, and since the war began in 2003, it's estimated half have fled, fearing for their lives.
"(Can you see a time when there won't be any Christians left in Iraq) Right, yes, that's our fear. We fear that moment." "We don't know how to hold them or make them stay here," said Father Sirop Hanna.
But Father Sirop Hanna says he'll keep trying to hold his flock together, despite the risks.
"Do you fear for yourself sometimes?) Yes, but it's ok. Some fear is ok," said Sirop Hanna.

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