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    » 12/23/2013, 00.00

    IRAQ

    Iraqi government declares Christmas a 'national holiday'

    Joseph Mahmoud

    In his recent address to the authorities, the Chaldean Patriarch had asked for an official recognition of the holy day. Mar Sako said that "Jesus did not come just for Christians, but for everyone"; he also emphasises the "special respect" Muslims have for Jesus. The recognition is a new and important step for a long-persecuted minority.

    Baghdad (AsiaNews) - In a new and important step towards the Christian minority, the Iraqi government accepted a request by the Chaldean Patriarchate to recognise 25 December as an official day of celebration and a national holiday for all of the country's citizens. In Karrada, a neighbourhood on the eastern bank of the Tigris River where Christians, Shias and Sunnis live peacefully together, the authorities had already set up a five-metre Christmas tree.

    As a show of "solidarity", the decision sends a signal meant to curb an exodus that has decimated the Christian community in the past ten years.

    It comes after His Beatitude Mar Raphael Louis Sako I wrote a letter to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki last week, asking him to make 25 December a "day of rest for all Iraqis."

    For the patriarch, such a recognition would be a way to acknowledge the value and importance of a community that has for centuries actively contributed to the development of the nation.

    In his letter, the Chaldean Patriarch explained that "Jesus did not come just for Christians, but for everyone", stressing the "special respect" Muslims "have for Him."

    In response, the Iraqi cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister al-Maliki took this "important decision" yesterday morning.

    In Baghdad, local authorities also decked out some areas of the capital with Christmas lights and trees to "show their respect for and closeness to" the Christian community at this time of celebration.

    After the US invasion in 2003, Islamic extremists targeted the Christian minority, killing hundreds of its members, including a bishop, priests, businessmen, doctors, and politicians.

    Because of this, Christians in their thousands have fled the country over the past ten years, reducing the community from more than two million to less than 300,000.

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    See also

    04/04/2016 15:05:00 NEPAL
    Nepal cancels Christmas as a public holiday; Christians retort that Hindus have 83

    Nepal’s Home Affairs Minister justifies the decision by the need to reduce the number of religious feast days. Christians see the influence of "anti-Christian tendencies”. Christmas was declared a public holiday eight years ago, when Nepal became a secular state. Christian leaders also slam Article 156, which bans conversions.



    19/12/2004 VATICAN
    May the Christmas tree teach us to give ourselves, says the Pope

    Pontiff lovingly greets 32 children who survived the Beslan school massacre.



    19/12/2014 VATICAN
    For pope, even to non-believers the crèche and the Christmas tree "speak of fraternity, intimacy and friendship"
    This afternoon Francesco inaugurated the crèche and Christmas tree in St Peter's Square as well as the new lighting on the façade and the dome of St Peter's Basilica.

    02/12/2014 KOREA
    Korea, giant Christmas Tree returns to border between North and South
    The Seoul government has granted the Christian Council of Korea to turn on the lights of the huge metal structure, topped by a cross, which will be visible up to 10 miles away. On December 23, a church service and the singing of Christmas carols.

    03/12/2011 KOREA
    A Christmas tree ready to light up North Korea
    The Seoul government, after 7 years, grants permission to light the three with the cross on its top at Aegibong Peak, a hilly area less than 3 km from the border that separates the two Koreas: It will be visible to the North Korean population. North Korea attacks the "propaganda of the regime."



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