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11 December 2023

Iraqi churches cancel Christmas celebrations and voice fears over safety concerns

Iraqi church leaders have expressed their concern that the government in Iraq is not doing enough to preserve the rights of Christians, and many have cancelled their Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Father Poulos from Iraq stands outside a church door with a cross on it looking serious

Please pray with church leaders like Father Poulos (pictured) for a safe and peaceful Christmas in Iraq

Iraqi church leaders have issued a statement saying they fear that the state in Iraq will ‘continue not to take serious action to preserve the rights of Christians’ after meeting together at a monastery in Erbil. Many have also cancelled their Christmas and New Year celebrations because of the tragic wedding hall fire in Qaraqosh and the ongoing war between Israel and Gaza. 

Iraqi Christian roots are “deep” 

In their official statement, released on 28 November, they say, “Christians are not a minority in their homeland, nor a community or imported goods. Their roots are deep in Iraq. Their presence has not ceased. Christians, before and after the advent of Islam, had a role rooted in the history of Iraq, Mesopotamia, the land of the ‘beginnings’ and the first civilisations. They constitute an essential part of this cultural, social and national heritage.  

“Christians, by their nature and belief, are peaceful. They are not inclined to violence and revenge, but rather to love and mercy. However, despite this, they have been subjected to pressure, attacks and attempts to seize their homes and property in devious ways, which prompted those who have the means to emigrate, in order to preserve their lives and the future of their children.” 

The leaders also expressed their fears toward the state marginalising Iraqi Christians’ rights, stating: “All we fear now is that the state will continue not to take serious action to preserve the rights of Christians, provide them with justice, and return their usurped property… but no one responds to our request.” 

Church leaders pray together for peace 

The heads of churches in Iraq were invited by Patriarch Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako to the Priestly Monastery in Ankawa, Erbil. 

At the start of the meeting, the participants observed a minute of silence, to pray for the victims of the Qaraqosh wedding hall fire in September, in which 133 Christians lost their lives and many more were injured, and for the victims of the war in Israel and Gaza. 

During their meeting, the church leaders decided to cancel Christmas and New Year celebrations out of respect for the victims of the wedding fire in Qaraqosh and those caught up in the Israel/Gaza conflict. “Celebrations will be limited to prayers and church rituals, out of respect for the victims of Qaraqosh and the Holy Land,” they said. “Therefore, we will be unable to accept congratulations and receive officials in churches.” 

They ended their meeting praying for God’s peace for Iraq and the region. Please pray with them for God to move, and that believers will know the love, peace and hope of Jesus this Christmas. 

Please pray
  • That church leaders will lead with wisdom and discernment and will know God’s peace
  • For the hearts of those in government in Iraq to take this statement seriously and act on it
  • That the presence and power of God will move in Iraq and across the Middle East this Christmas.
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