Abbreviating Christmas in Iraq
By Timothy Williams.
BAGHDAD — As a priest led prayers for a few dozen worshipers inside St. Joseph Chaldean Church here on Sunday, Iraqi police officers stood guard outside. They blocked the street to traffic and frisked those who entered for explosive belts.
At churches in Baghdad this week, Christians are being asked for identification to determine if they have names that security force members recognize as Christian. Some churches around the northern city of Mosul are digging in, surrounding their buildings with giant earthen berms to prevent car bombers from getting too close.
For Christians in Iraq, this will be a year of canceled holiday celebrations and of Christmas Masses spent under the protective watch of police officers and soldiers because of a spate of threats by extremist groups to bomb churches on Christmas Day.
“I’m very sad that we are not able to have our rituals for Christmas this year and not have a sermon, but we do not want any Christians to be harmed,” said Edward Poles, a Christian priest at Sa’a Church in Mosul, which was bombed last week, though no one was killed.