Christmas is cancelled in Baghdad, as Iraqi Christians back protesters

Christmas is cancelled in Baghdad, as Iraqi Christians back protesters
Christian leaders have cancelled Christmas celebrations in the streets of Baghdad in support of anti-government protests.
2 min read
11 December, 2019
There will be no Christmas tree in Baghdad as Iraq's Christians population lend their support to anti-government protests.

Instead of tinsel and baubles, a tree in the middle of a central Baghdad plaza occupied by anti-government protesters has been decorated with portraits of those killed by security forces earlier this month.

The tribute, demonstrators explained to the Washington Post, was to honour the decision made by Christian leaders to cancel the festivities, and instead remember all the people who died.

During a recent visit to Tahrir Square, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, of the Chaldean Church in Iraq said "a new Iraq is being born".

"Now there you feel you are Iraqi," he told The Associated Press.

Morally and spiritually we cannot celebrate in such an atmosphere of tension… it's not normal to celebrate our joy and happiness while others are dying. That doesn't work.

He urged the government to listen to the demands of the protestors. "The military solution is bad," he said.
We will have no other celebration; we cannot make a big feast when our country is in a critical situation.

"We have suffered a lot. Since the collapse of the old regime many have been killed, others kidnapped, others threatened and left, and many homes and properties of Christians have been occupied by militias," Sako added.

"So the protestors are telling them [the government] we look for justice and stability and to be equal citizens. We ask for the same justice for ourselves."

The goodwill gesture follows months of mass protests in Iraq's capital and southern cities, which has been met with violence by security forces and armed groups, leaving more than 430 dead and 20,000 wounded.

Read more: The Iraq Report: The prime minister falls but the system remains

Though the protests have been concentrated in Shia-majority areas, Christians and Sunni Muslims have also taken part.

Iraq's Christian minority have suffered through years of war, with a third left out of the 1.5 million Christians living in the country before 2003.

Last week, Pope Francis spoke out against Iraq's violent crackdown on protesters.

"I am following the situation in Iraq with concern. It is with pain that I have learned of the protest demonstrations of the past days that were met with a harsh response, causing tens of victims," Francis said at his weekly Sunday speech.

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