12/15/2010, 00.00
IRAQ

"Walled" Churches and checkpoints. Christmas for Iraqi Christians

After the escalation of anti-Christian violence, the government decides to erect concrete barriers three meters high around parishes. Bishop Warda: "Everyone is asking who will now be the next".

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - To defend Christians from potential new attacks during the Christmas season three meter high concrete walls will be erected around the churches in Baghdad and Mosul. The access points to the parishes will be controlled by police equipped with scanners and metal detectors, according to reports by Catholic News Service. The barriers are the Iraqi government's response to escalating threats and violence against minority religious communities, increasingly the target of crime and Islamic terrorism.

The Christmas celebrations will consist of masses and small parties within the boundaries of the parishes, but there is frustration among the faithful. "The sadness of the people is everywhere. Insecurity and uncertainty are everywhere. The question on everyone's lips is 'who is next?” Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda told Aid to the Church in Need. "There's a certain desperation, but whatever happens, the faithful are determined to celebrate the Christmas liturgy at all costs”.

Bishop Warda said the barriers and security measures make the faithful feel as if "they were entering a military camp. " In any case, the bishop welcomes the Government's initiative to ensure security during the important religious holiday.

The massacre of 31 October at the Church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad killed 57 people and wounded dozens. At least two thousand Christian families have left the capital and Mosul for fear of new waves of sectarian violence.

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