Another dark Christmas for Iraq Christians, bombs kill at least 34
It’s Christmas in Baghdad, and once again Iraq’s Christians are celebrating behind blast walls and barbed wire.
At least 34 people died in bomb attacks in Christian areas on Wednesday, some by a car bomb near a church after a Christmas service. A church attack in 2010 killed dozens.
As prayers are offered and gifts handed out, many are wondering what a surge in violence to its worst levels in half a decade and politicking ahead of April elections means for a community whittled down by years of carnage and migration.
On Christmas Eve, the Mar Yousif Syriac Catholic church in western Baghdad looked like a walled fortress. Soldiers and police ran bomb detectors across cars, searched trunks and bags and patted down visitors before the evening ceremony.
Inside, the red confetti-strewn Christmas tree, bright blue-and-white tile mosaic, and strings of Santa Claus-themed bunting contrasted with drab streets strewn with concrete blocks and barbed wire outside.
But pews which would have overflowed with worshippers a few years ago were barely two-thirds full – a reflection of the fact that the Christian community has fallen from about 1.5 million before the U.S.-led invasion to about half that.
“The future is very critical because of immigration,” said human rights activist William Warda before Tuesday night’s service, estimating 10 to 20 Christians were still leaving the country each day.
“Many Christians … are fleeing from the country because of this issue, because there is no sign of a bright future.”
See also Christmas bombings kill 34 in Iraq