al-Qaeda Oppressing Iraqi Christians

Baby Jesus(pbuh) wept.

KIRKUK, Iraq Iraqi Christians on Wednesday called off Christmas festivities in three cities across the country as al Qaeda insurgents threatened more attacks on a beleaguered community still terrified from a bloody siege on a Baghdad church.

Church officials in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul along with the southern city of Basra said they will not put up Christmas decorations, have canceled evening Mass and urged worshippers to refrain from decorating their homes. Even an appearance by Santa Claus has been called off.

"Nobody can ignore the threats of al Qaeda against Iraqi Christians," said Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako in Kirkuk. "We cannot find a single source of joy that makes us celebrate. The situation of the Christians is bleak."

Christians across Iraq have been living in fear since a Baghdad church attack in October that left 68 people dead. Days later insurgents targeted Christian homes and neighborhoods across the capital with a series of bombs.

An al Qaeda front group that claimed responsibility for the church siege vowed at the time to carry out a reign of terror against Christians.

The Islamic State of Iraq renewed its threats in a message posted late Tuesday on a website frequented by Islamic extremists. The group said it wants two women it claims are being held captive by Egypt's Coptic Church to be released.

Muslim extremists in Egypt say the church has detained the women for allegedly converting to Islam. The church denies the allegations but extremists in Iraq have latched onto the issue. The message Tuesday was addressed to Iraq's Christian community and said it was designed to "pressure" Egypt.

Since the deadly church siege, the UN estimates some 1,000 Christian families fled to the Kurdish region in northern Iraq which is generally much safer.

For those who remain, this Christmas will be a subdued affair.

Posted by: Howie at 09:37 AM

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