Iraqi Christians hold Xmas amid fears

fazaeli-fatemeh201012260846079831.jpgFather Saad Sirop Hanna (C) gives communion to some 35 Christians during the Christmas service at Saint Joseph’s Chaldean Catholic Church in central Baghdad.In Iraq, special security precautions have been adopted to ensure safe Christmas ceremonies, following recent terrorist attacks against churches across the country.

Iraqi security forces have increased their presence on the streets by manning more checkpoints and conducting foot patrols, specifically in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

The preparations come after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the country’s security forces to ensure a safe Christmas for the country’s Christian population.

Despite the heavy security enforcement, some churches in Iraq have chosen to tone down holiday celebrations.

The precautions come only two months after the siege of Our Lady of Salvation Catholic church on October 31.

The violence left 70 people dead. Fifty-three of the victims were Christians.

An al-Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack and threatened more violence.

Iraq has witnessed bombings and terror attacks on a nearly daily basis since the US-led invasion of the country in 2003.

No religious or ethnic group has been spared in the violence.

However, the recent hostilities have prompted a “slow but steady exodus” of thousands of Christians from Iraq, the UN refugee agency said last week.

According to the organization, nearly half of the estimated 1.4 million Iraqi Christians have been driven out of the Middle Eastern country since 2003.

Most Iraqi Christians have reportedly sought refuge in Iraq’s Kurdish region, while some others have fled overseas — mainly to neighboring Syria, Jordan and Lebanon