Reuters blog archive
Middle East Christians are struggling to keep hope alive with Arab Spring democracy movements promising more political freedom but threatening religious strife that could decimate their dwindling ranks. Scenes of Egyptian Muslims and Christians protesting side by side in Cairo's Tahrir Square five months ago marked the high point of the euphoric phase when a new era seemed possible for religious minorities chafing under Islamic majority rule.
Since then, violent attacks on churches by Salafists -- a radical Islamist movement once held in check by the region's now weakened or toppled authoritarian regimes -- have convinced Christians their lot has not really improved and could get worse.
(Photo: Refugee Iraqi Christians attend a pre-Christmas mass at Chaldean Catholic church in Amman December 22, 2010/Ali Jarekji)
Some church leaders in Iraq have told Christians not to celebrate Christmas except with prayer after lethal attacks and continuing threats by militants against the Iraqi Christian community.
"No Santa Claus, no celebrations, no gifts this year," Archbishop Louis Sako, chairman of the Chaldean archbishops in Kirkuk and Sulaimaniya, said on Wednesday. "We don't have the right to jeopardize others' lives."
A spate of bombs targeting churches in Baghdad this week has Iraq's minority Christian community trembling at the prospect of being the next victim of militants trying to reignite war.
Iraqi Christians, one of the country's weakest ethnic or religious groups, have usually tried to steer clear of its many-sided conflict. For the most part, they manage.