IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — Minority Christians, many of them driven from their homes by Islamic State militants, are celebrating Christmas in Iraqi Kurdistan.
At a Christmas Eve Mass in Irbil, they were assured that Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities are welcome in the Kurdish region.
A celebrant prayed, asking God to “realize reconciliation among the individuals and groups, and renew all our hearts and intentions so we live all in peace and joy.”
Meanwhile, refugees at a tent camp in a suburb or Irbil received a Christmas Eve phone call from Pope Francis, who said their makeshift conditions were similar to Jesus’ birthplace in a manger more than 2,000 years ago. The camp houses mostly Christian refugees forced to flee the onslaught by militants of the Islamic State.
In a letter to Mideast Christians penned earlier this week, Francis urged them to remain in the region and to help their Muslim neighbors present “a more authentic image of Islam” as a religion of peace.
170-a-12-(Celebrant at Christmas Eve Mass praying, in Iraqi Kurdistan)-“peace and joy”-Sound of celebrant praying at Christmas Eve Mass in Iraqi Kurdistan. (24 Dec 2014)
171-r-22-(Choir singing “O Come All Ye Faithful”, at Christmas Eve Mass in Iraqi Kurdistan)–Sound of choir singing at Christmas Eve Mass in Iraqi Kurdistan. (24 Dec 2014)
166-r-53-(Choir, singing ‘Silent Night’ during Christmas Eve Mass)–Sound of choir singing during Christmas Eve Mass in Irbil, in Iraq’s Kurdish region. (24 Dec 2014)