Embattled Iraqi Christians gather to worship on Christmas eve

Blast walls shielded the church as seven policemen served as watchmen outside the place of worship for fear of ISIS attack

Iraqi's embattled Christian community in Baghdad boldly gathered on Wednesday night at Christmas Eve mass.

Reports say the pews were filled at Baghdad’s Sacred Heart church, as people remembered the darkest year in memory.

Blast walls shielded the church as seven policemen served as watchmen outside the place of worship, in an indication of the government's fear on an attack on the Christian faithful by jihadists (ISIS) who consider them non-believers.

The worshippers paid tribute to the thousands of Christians displaced this summer in northern Iraq when Islamic State (ISIS)  seized the city of Mosul in June and in August pushed on toward Iraqi Kurdistan, over-running Christian towns on the Nineveh plain.

“The recent conditions have left us with a bit of sadness for our brethren, be they Christian or non-Christian, those who were displaced and harmed," Father Thair Abdul Masih told Reuters.

"Christianity is the religion of peace and we pray for these people to return to their homes. We pray for all evil to vanish,” he said.

Some had personal stories of those displaced this summer in northern Iraq, who have scattered to Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey and Lebanon.

“They live in misery… yet we still exchange blessings and congratulations of Christmas and the New Year," said Fadi Rafaat, 27, an assistant to the priest. "We celebrate the happiness of Christmas, but deep inside we carry the sadness of Iraq."


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