Iraq: Safety Concerns Mute Christmas Celebrations

Christian congregations across Iraq canceled or toned down Christmas celebrations in the wake of several attacks, including a bloody siege on a Catholic church in Baghdad in late October, and recent threats against the country’s dwindling Christian minority. Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Kirkuk, said Wednesday that threats from the Islamic State of Iraq, an iteration of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, had forced the cancellation of all observances and festivities apart from Christmas prayers, which were being moved to the morning because of safety concerns. In the southern city of Basra, home to about 2,000 Christians, church leaders said they had canceled a New Year’s Eve celebration. Since the assault on the Baghdad church, a new wave of Christians has been fleeing to northern Iraq or abroad.