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Sunday
Dec262010

Iraqi Christians Mark Somber Christmas in Baghdad

Dec. 25, 2010: Iraqi Christians attend a Mass at Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraqi Christians are marking a somber Christmas in the face of repeated violence by militants intent on driving their beleaguered community from Iraq.BAGHDAD –  Iraqi Christians gathered Saturday to mark Christmas in the same church where less than two months ago dozens from their beleaguered community were killed by Muslim extremists intent on driving them from Iraq.

The walls were pockmarked with bullet holes, plastic sheeting covered gaps where glass windows used to be and small pieces of dried flesh and blood remain stuck to the ceiling.

In front of the altar were photos of the dead parishioners, and twin black cassocks hung from the walls representing the two priests killed in the October bloodbath.

"No matter how hard the storm blows, love will save us," Archbishop Matti Shaba Matouka told the congregation.

The storm has blown violently against Iraqi Christians this fall.

Gunmen stormed the Our Lady of Salvation church Oct. 31, taking more than 120 people hostage in a siege that ended with 68 people dead. Days later a string of bombings outside Christian homes and in Christian neighborhoods hammered home the threat.

Iraqi church officials canceled many Christmas celebrations like appearances by Santa Claus or evening Mass, out of fear for their parishioners' safety after al-Qaida this week threatened more violence against them. The toned down celebrations were also a sign of respect for the suffering the community has undergone.

But many of the more than 300 people gathered Saturday at the church, now surrounded by concrete blast barriers and a phalanx of security officers, said they would not be cowed into abandoning their faith or their country. Outside the building hung a homemade sign that said the church would prosper during times of oppression.

"I love my country. I buried my parents here. I can't leave it," said Adiba Youssef, a 52-year-old woman who came to the morning service with her family.

"We believe in God, and he will protect us."

Some of the parishioners said they had not bought a Christmas tree and felt little cause for joy. Laith Amir said he and his family stay home most of the time because they're too afraid to go out. They did not purchase presents or a tree, but he said the church attack strengthened the will of many Christians.

"The church was baptized by the blood of the martyrs. It gave us more motivation to come to the church and to celebrate Christmas in spite of what has happened to us," he said.

Christian leaders estimate 400,000 to 600,000 Christians still live in Iraq, according to a recent State Department report. At one time before the war, that number was as high as 1.4 million by some estimates.

U.N. officials estimate that about 1,000 Christian families have fled to the relative safety of northern Iraq following the church siege.

Many Christians have gone to the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles (260 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad. The three provinces that make up the Kurdish region are much safer than many other parts of Iraq. Sheat Jubran came with his three children after the church siege but relief was tempered by sadness Saturday.

"How can we celebrate while Christians are killed on a daily basis in Iraq? They killed our children and worshippers during prayer time, and they keep on practicing the ugliest crimes against Christians," he said.

The prospect of Christians fleeing Iraq for good has worried many Iraqis, including Shiite and Sunni Muslims alike. During the Saturday parliament session, Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi called on Christians to stay in their neighborhoods and homes, instead of leaving the country.

"Iraqis do not want the church bells and carols to be silenced," he said.

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Reader Comments (2)

OBAMA FULFILLING THE BIBLE

For some stunning info on Pres. Obama and his fellow subversives, Google "Michelle Obama's Allah-day," "Obama Supports Public Depravity," "David Letterman's Hate Etc.," "Un-Americans Fight Franklin Graham" and also "Sandra Bernhard, Larry David, Kathy Griffin, Bill Maher, Sarah Silverman."
Here are some Bible verses that Obama avoids:
Proverbs 19:10 (NIV): "It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury - how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!"
Also Proverbs 30:22 (NIV) which says that the earth cannot bear up under "a servant who becomes king."
And Ecclesiastes 5:2-3 (KJV) advises: "let thy words be few...a fool's voice is known by multitude of words."
Although Obama is not descended from slaves, he may feel that he's destined to become a black-slavery avenger.
Or maybe an enslaver of all free citizens!
PS - Since Christians are commanded to ask God to send severe judgment on persons who commit and support the worst forms of evil (see I Cor. 5 and note "taken away"), Christians everywhere should constantly pray that the Lord will soon "take away" or at least overthrow all US leaders, including Obama, who continue to sear their conscience and arrogantly trample the God-given rights of the majority including the rights of the unborn. Do we need a second American Revolution?
December 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTanya
If Obama was to vanish from this Earth, I would shed no tears.
December 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterMark "Snooper" Harvey
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