04/14/2009, 00.00
IRAQ

Almost calm Easter celebrations in Baghdad, Mosul and Basra

After years of difficulties this is the first Easter and Holy Week that is fully celebrated. In Baghdad Patriarch Delly urges the faithful not to let attacks stop them. In Mosul about 80 per cent of the Christian community is back in town. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani releases a message of best wishes for the occasion.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – After years of terror and fear, Easter and Holy Week were celebrated again in Iraq in relative calm. In general, parish churches were full of people, confident that the security situation would hold.

In Baghdad the anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein was marked on 9 April. Several explosions were recorded across the city with several deaths. However, this did not prevent Christians from taking part in Easter services. Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel Delly actually invited Catholics to overcome their fears and trust the police which ensured security outside churches.

In Mosul the situation appeared more relaxed as well. In the last few years priests, bishops and ordinary Christians had been targeted by terrorist groups and criminal gangs, killed, kidnapped and dispossessed of their property, pushing most to flee. This time, according to a priest, at least 80 per cent of the Christian community was back in town for Easter celebrations, confident that promises by the Iraqi government and the US army would hold.

In Basra Easter Eve was celebrated again on Holy Saturday after many years. In the recent past because of the war and anti-Christian attacks services had been cut down to a minimum or celebrated in the early afternoon. This time meetings between Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants were also held.

Before Easter Iraq President Jalal Talabani released a letter of best wishes to the Christian community, calling on the faithful to follow Jesus Christ and sow in Iraqi society the principles of tolerance, brotherhood, peace and justice, which are needed to build a democratic Iraq in which everyone’s rights are respected. He also thanked Iraqi Christians for their contribution to the development of Iraqi civilisation over the past two thousand years. (SM)

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