Iraq (MNN) — The United States
Commission on International Religious Freedom recommends Iraq as a
"country of particular concern" (CPC). This comes in light of the abuses of
religious freedom and the Iraqi government's toleration of these abuses,
particularly against religious minorities.
Since 2004, thousands of Iraqi
Christians have fled to Syria, Jordan and to the West for refuge and a new start. Many were forced to leave family behind, which means there is a remnant church in Iraq.
Carl Moeller with
Open Doors explains that, sadly, "Christians
in Mosul over the last few months have been particularly
targeted for extermination by the remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq. This Christmas is one of great stress and
difficulty for these believers."
According to Open Doors, Christmas observances traditionally would include a ceremony in the courtyard of the home on
One of the children in the family
would read the story of the Nativity from the Bible, and the other family members would hold lighted candles. When the story was read, a bonfire would be lit in one of the
corners of the courtyard. On Christmas Day a similar bonfire would be built on the
While the fire burned, the men of
the fellowship would sing a hymn, and a procession would take place in which the officials
of the church would march behind the bishop who carried an image of baby Jesus.
The service would end with the blessing of the people.
Bonfires are not held
in Iraq any more since any bonfire attracts suspicious persons; perhaps Muslim
terrorists. Fires are now linked with
explosions and attacks.
The way the West celebrates Christmas had also
affected the Church in Iraq… by copying the traditions of a Christmas tree,
presents and songs. At present, it is too dangerous to be open about
Christmas in cities like Baghdad and Mosul.
Moeller says, despite difficult
circumstances, "It doesn't stop the work that Open Doors is
doing. We realize that when faith costs the most, we need to
be the ones representing the larger body of Christ, stepping in that
gap, and encouraging and strengthening the believers in those situations."