12/27/2011, 00.00
IRAQ
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Next year, Christmas will be a civic holiday in Kirkuk

by Joseph Mahmoud
The city’s governor, Najim al-din Umar Karim, announced the decision. He also said he would urge the central government to make 25 December a national holiday. More than 2,000 faithful take part in Christmas Mass. Muslim religious leaders express their best wishes. The governor urges Christians who fled abroad to come back to Iraq.
Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – The governor of Kirkuk, Najim al-din Umar Karim, said that Christmas would be a civic holiday next year for the entire city. He made his decision public whilst expressing his best wishes to Chaldean bishop Louis Sako and local Christians attending Christmas Mass in the city’s cathedral. He also said he would urge the national government to make Christmas a national holiday for all Iraqis.

The rich city of Kirkuk has been the scene of violence, often against Christians. Despite that, the city’s archbishop told AsiaNews that about 2,000 people took part in Christmas Mass, held during daytime for security reasons. A nativity scene in the form of a Bedouin tent (pictured) was set up at the entrance of the church to symbolise the coming of Jesus to Iraq.

In a sign of the desire for coexistence, all secular authorities (municipal, military and police) and Muslim religious leaders came to the cathedral to express their best wishes for Christmas.

Addressing the people present at the ceremony, the governor of Kirkuk praised the mission of Jesus Christ, the ‘Prince of Peace’. He urged Christians who fled the country (600,000) to come back to Iraq.

“Without them, Iraq will be missing something substantial,” said Najim al-din Umar Karim, who praised Archbishop Sako for his support for Christian-Muslim dialogue. “Without them, Iraq won’t be Iraq,” he added.

Meanwhile Sunni-Shia tensions increased following the attempt to arrest Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni from the al-Iraqiyya Party, for allegedly supporting terrorism.

His party, the largest Sunni group, has decided to boycott parliament, accusing Prime Minister al-Maliki, a Shia, of trying to monopolise power.

Tensions between Sunnis and Shias appear to be the reason for renewed terrorist attacks in the capital.

Yesterday, seven people were killed and another 27 wounded when a car bomb exploded near the Interior Ministry. Last Thursday, a series of coordinated attacks killed 70 people.
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