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Iraqi leader makes Christmas Eve appeal to Christians


BAGHDAD – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Wednesday, urged Iraq’s dwindling Christian community to stay in spite of the threat of Islamic State militants.
“It is necessary for Christians to continue to be brothers and real partners to the building of Iraq,’’ al-Abadi said in a statement on Christmas Eve.
Iraq’s minorities, mainly Christians, have been the main target of Islamic State extremists.
After the capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, the radical militia ordered local Christians to convert to Islam, pay a protection tax, or face death.
“This year’s celebrations come at a time of firm confrontation against the Daesh terrorists.
“Who aim at tearing up the social fabric and undermine peaceful co-existence in Iraq,’’ al-Abadi said using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
According to Christian lawmaker, Younadem Kana, no fewer than 160,000 Christians have fled Mosul since Islamic State took over the city in June.
He said that around 70 per cent of them had taken refuge into Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan while the rest left the country.
“All Christians in Iraq these days are distressed because they cannot celebrate Christmas,’’ he told newsmen.
Report says unlike in past years, churches in the capital Baghdad did not display festive decorations, and security had been tightened for fear of attacks.
According to Iraqi clerics About 1.2 million Christians lived in Iraq before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, which overthrew longtime dictator Saddam Hussein.
However, that figure has dwindled to about 500,000 population. (dpa/NAN)

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