Baghdad's Christians gather defiantly for Christmas Eve mass

Updated: 2014-12-25 11:10


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Baghdad's Christians gather defiantly for Christmas Eve mass

A priest blesses Iraqi Christians, who fled with their families from violence in their country, during a mass on Christmas Eve at Saint George Victorious Cathedral in Amman December 24, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

Some had personal stories of those displaced this summer in northern Iraq, who have scattered to Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey and Lebanon.

"They live in miseryyet we still exchange blessings and congratulations of Christmas and the New Year," said Fadi Rafaat, 27, an assistant to the priest. "We celebrate the happiness of Christmas, but deep inside we carry the sadness of Iraq."

The holiday season weighed heavily on some. Earlier in the day, a mother and daughter on a busy street in the neighborhood of Karrada, argued about whether they should stay in Iraq or give up on the country.

The mother insisted she would die in Iraq unafraid, but her daughter longed to escape. Last year her son was robbed at gunpoint working in a jewelry shop.

"I wish to leave this country as soon as possible because we, Christians, have been hunted down by extremists and reduced into a very small minority," the woman said, who declined to give her name. "Life is not very kind to us these days."

Iraq's Christians once numbered about 1.5 million. There are now believed to be less than 500,000 out of a population estimated at 32 million, according to the US State Department's 2013 International Religious Freedom Report.