PHOTOS: With COVID restrictions lifted, Christians in Kurdistan Region’s Duhok celebrate ‘happier’ Christmas
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Churchgoers and clergymen across the autonomous Kurdistan Region’s province of Duhok are again celebrating a recognizable Christmas after last year’s coronavirus restrictions made for festivities that were decidedly unfestive.
In 2020, most members of the Christian community celebrated Christmas at home, but this year Saint Joseph Church in the northern city of Duhok was packed with worshippers attending church services and celebrating with loved ones and fellow parishioners.
Duhok has a significant Christian community and has been known as a city of coexistence, with Christians, Muslims, Yezidis, and other faiths living peacefully together.
Priest Emad Khoshaba described the occasion as “a day when Christians are reminded of the rise of Christianity, the end of the darkness, and the people’s spiritual need for God,” and likened the Kurdistan Region to “a garden of flowers where various kind of flowers live beside each other.”
One member of his congregation, Faez Najeeb, went to church to pray at 8:00 a.m. on Christmas morning, telling Kurdistan 24, “It’s good that we are having a happier Christmas this year because last year the atmosphere was depressing due to strict COVID-19 restrictions. We hope for peace and health for everyone in the world.”
Ismaeel Pegayi, another member of the church in his late 70s, said, “Nowadays, celebrations are not socially as warm and celebratory as before, but it’s still good and we try to come together to exchange congratulations.”
Duhok province is home to more than 65 churches, some of them demonstrating the religion’s long local history. In addition to the original Christian community there, many other members have fled their homes elsewhere in Iraq to end up as Duhok residents, choosing the province as a far more secure home for their families.