Many liturgical functions called off, no Christmas decorations, and no celebrations after dark. The Iraqi prime minister calls attacks on Christians “a crime against national unity”. An appeal for peace and solidarity among ethnic groups and religions, and a message of hope from the archbishop of Kirkuk.
Kirkuk (AsiaNews / Agencies) – A Christmas of fear and sadness for Iraqi Christians, in memory of the martyrs killed Oct. 31 in the Syrian Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad. Many masses were called off across the country, and security measures heightened. But in the midst of this also the determination expressed in a message also sent to AsiaNews by Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk. According to Middle East Concern, the celebrations were cancelled as a result of threats posted on Web sites of Islamic groups. “The decision was taken after the threats were repeated on Tuesday, December 22. The churches in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk have decided not to put up Christmas decorations and called off ceremonies after darkâ€.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has called on Christians not to leave Iraq. “Attempts to keep Christians away from their homeland and their land, which clung to them through the centuries, is a great crime against national unity,” al-Maliki said in a statement marking the Christmas holiday. But many churches in Mosul did not hold celebrations while in Basra the roads leading to churches were cordoned off with barbed wire, and the buildings were surrounded by security forces.
In this gloomy picture, the archbishop of Kirkuk, wants to talk about hope. “As long as we get back to each other: Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, Muslims and Christians, we resist and we stay, because Iraq without us loses its beautiful multi-identity. We remain because are committed to love and to return to each other. This is the road to resurrection, life and renewal”.
Archbishop Sako recalled Oct. 31: ” We live in Iraq today, a painful experience, culminating in the massacre of Our Lady of Deliverance, which have shocked Christians and Muslims together, but we are determined to withstand the ordeal. We will not give in to temptation and frustration because life is a gift from God and it is greater than the hands of evil can destroy it”.
“If we go back to the essence of religion and to our common human roots, inevitably we will meet tour national fraternity in equality, justice, solidarity. Then risk will vanish and life will reflect abundantly This is good news of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ with his message of hope: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace. ”
The Archbishop of Kirkuk concluded his message with an appeal for peace: “Peace is the base of all goods: we ask it in prayer and implement it with mutual love and solidarity. Then the miracle happens and we will have peace on earth for human beings and the glory of God in the highest. We both believe that God is the Lord of the impossible”.