Christians pray for peace and stability at Christmas

69585474.jpgTwo men in Santa Claus suits and one dressed as a clown wave to people from a church balcony in Ainkawa town, west of Erbil city, on December 24. GLOBE PHOTO / Wahid Ismael
By Qassim Khidhir
The Kurdish Globe

Mosul Christians celebrate “brotherly, peaceful” holiday

The cities of Kurdistan Region are decorated with colorful lights as
Christmas and New Year inch closer.

Christians all over Kurdistan are preparing for Christmas. In Ankawa town in Erbil, which is mostly inhabited by Christians, trees and houses are decorated with lights. City markets are crowded with Christians buying clothes and food.

Although the majority of the Erbil population is Muslim, the streets of the city are decorated with colorful lights to welcome in the New Year and Christmas. Even the city’s ancient citadel is decorated with beautiful lights.

“We enjoy Christmas and New Year; it is really beautiful. I consider it our national holiday,” said Karwan Gafur, 26, a Muslim. “I am going to visit my [two Christian] friends to tell them Merry Christmas.”

The scene in Duhok is the same as in Erbil city.

“Christians in Kurdistan Region celebrate Christmas in a free, peaceful, and brotherly atmosphere,” said Bishop Raban Alqas, in Duhok province. “On Christmas night, all Christians go to Church where all the priests and bishops pray for peace in Kurdistan, Iraq, and the world.”

The Kurdish Globe visited Christians in Ninewa province, currently the most dangerous Iraqi province, to see how they are preparing for Christmas.

Karamlis village is a Christian village that was home to Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, who was abducted by unknown gunmen in February 2008 and found dead two weeks later. A mother of five children in the village said she will pray for peace and security for Christians this Christmas.

She spoke to us only on the degree of anonymity because she said she goes to Mosul city every month to pick up her dead husband’s pension. In October she said she left Mosul city after insurgents killed 12 Christians and threatened to kill more if they didn’t leave the city.

She now lives in Karamlis village, which is guarded by a small Christian militia known as Church Guards.

“At Christmas, my family and my neighborhood that also fled Mosul city will meet together to discuss our sad life,” she said.

Father Josef Yohannes, the priest in Karamlis village, explained that on Christmas night he will hold mass at 9:00 rather than at midnight because of security. “The sooner the better so that the people can get home earlier,” said Father Yohannes.

He said Christians in his village will celebrate with a broken heart because of all of the terrible things Christians are facing in middle and southern Iraq.

Father Yohannes, sitting in his church, was guarded by armed Christian men on the outside. He said there are more than 300 displaced families from Mosul in his village who have fled there since 2003.

The displaced families in Karamlis said that they feel safe since the village is guarded by Christian armed men.