ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Christians in the autonomous Kurdistan Region have begun preparations ahead of Christmas celebrations on Wednesday.
Elsewhere, in Iraq, Christians have decided not to celebrate the holiday in public this year in solidarity with anti-government protests, which have seen at least 500 people killed and thousands more injured in clashes with security forces.
Meanwhile, those in the Kurdistan Region say they enjoy the coexistence and religious freedom the Kurdish region offers and will carry on with this year’s celebrations.
“The conditions and environment in Kurdistan are very different from Iraq and Baghdad. Kurdistan is safe, and there is religious freedom,” a priest at a church in the town of Koya told Kurdistan 24.
“Our preparations are underway, and we look forward to celebrating Christmas in all the churches in the Kurdistan Region.”
Christians have long been persecuted in Iraq. Indeed, when the so-called Islamic State emerged in 2014, tens of thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes, with many seeking refuge in the autonomous Kurdistan Region.
The Islamic State killed Christian civilians, forced some to convert to their deluded interpretation of Islam, and destroyed or desecrated churches in cities like Mosul, which it controlled for years.
The Kurdistan Region has often been lauded for being a beacon of religious tolerance, coexistence, and safety in an otherwise hostile Middle East.
(Additional reporting by Aras Amin)