Iraqi Christians hold a Christmas mass at attacked chuch

AFP, Saturday 25 Dec 2010

Christians in Iraq mourn the death of their loved ones in Christmas

OLS church (Reuters)

Christmas approaches Iraqi Christians shortly after they were targeted by bloody attacks.

Christian devotees attended a Christmas mass at Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad Saturday, a celebration still clouded by the mourning for loved ones. 

On 31 October, militants laid siege to Our Lady of Salvation church, leaving 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security forces personnel dead in an attack claimed by Al-Qaeda affiliates in Iraq.

Ten days later, attacks targeting the homes of Christians in Baghdad killed six people and wounded 33 others.

Despite Al-Qaeda threats, about 40 worshippers gathered to mark Christmas Eve at the Saint Joseph church in central Baghdad on Friday, less than two months after a massacre at another church in the city.

"Do not fear -- that is the message today," Father Saad Sirop Hanna, the head priest at the Chaldean Catholic church, told his congregation, after reciting the Christmas story in a half-chant, half-song.

He gave that message "in light of the threats that we received and also the general situation that we've lived in and through these seven years" since the 2003 US-led invasion, Hanna, a 39-year-old Iraqi, said after the service.

"The Christian community this Christmas is very afraid, very scared of the situation, and we take seriously the threats that we've received by Internet or by emails," he said.

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