Iraq’s Cabinet formally declared Christmas to be a national holiday as the country’s Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus amid tight security more than a year after Baghdad declared victory over ISIS who sought to eradicate all who did not follow the group’s strict interpretation of Sunni Islam.
“We extend our warmest wishes to Christians in Iraq and around the world for a very happy and peaceful Christmas,” the government said in a Tuesday morning tweet.
We extend our warmest wishes to Christians in Iraq and around the world for a very happy and peaceful Christmas. pic.twitter.com/eqOR2JJ0LS
— Government of Iraq – الحكومة العراقية (@IraqiGovt) December 25, 2018
According to Reuters, Iraq’s Christian population dropped from 1.5 million to approximately 400,000 after the American invasion in 2003 and that number has likely fallen further after ISIS swept across the north of the country in 2014. Iraq declared victory over ISIS last year, but the effects of the fighting are still visible.
In Baghdad, more than one hundred congregants attended Christmas mass at St. George Chaldean Church, led by Father Basilius.
“Of course we can say the security situation is better than in previous years,” he told Reuters. “We enjoy security and stability mainly in Baghdad. In addition, Daesh was beaten.” – READ MORE