» 12/23/2013, 00.00
Iraqi government declares Christmas a 'national holiday'
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.
(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."
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
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
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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