Iraq’s Christian population shrinking

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Published: Dec. 25, 2007 at 11:34 AM

BAGHDAD, Dec. 25 (UPI) — Iraq’s dwindling Christian population celebrated Christmas Tuesday — but in much smaller numbers than previous years.

Some Iraqi priests estimate as many as two-thirds of the country’s Christians — about 1 million people — have fled since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The homes and businesses of Christians have been frequent targets of insurgent attacks.

Sacred Heart church in Baghdad attracted 120 people for Christmas Eve Mass Monday, down from 400 in 2005.

“Last year it was full,” said parishioner Yusef Hanna. “So many people have left — gone up north, or out of the country.”

Rev. Thaer al-Sheik focused on the ongoing struggles faced by Iraqi Christians during his sermon.

“We call on God for equality, freedom — an end to war and an end to hunger,” he said. “We only demand from God peace for all of you.”