Many Christians in the West usually celebrate Christmas with door-to-door caroling, special church services and family gatherings to share the joy of the birth of baby Jesus.
But that is not the case in many restrictive and dangerous countries around the world, including Iraq. The risks are too great, mainly from Muslim terrorists. Iraq is No. 4 on the 2013 Open Doors World Watch List (www.worldwatchlist.us), which ranks countries that are the worst persecutors of Christians. It is estimated there are only 330,000 Christians left in Iraq as many have fled the country due to violence and persecution.
Pastor Tariq* tells Open Doors that “churches are targets for terrorists, especially on Christmas Day. Many Christians stay home because they are too afraid.”
Common Christmas traditions are still important to the Iraqi believers. Tariq and Human*, another pastor, say that in the past many families would purchase a Christmas tree, decorate the house and make special food. They would also buy new clothes and visit relatives and friends. However, because the situation is worsening in Iraq, they can’t always do these activities anymore.