Manger Square Bethlehem___________________________________________________________________________________
Xmas joy mixed with threats for Mideast Christians
Christians in the Middle East prepared on Friday to celebrate Christmas, some in fear of attacks against their community, as in Iraq, and others in the most discreet way possible, as in Saudi Arabia.For Iraq's battered Christian community, threats of attacks from Al-Qaeda and mourning for the victims of an October massacre at a Baghdad church have turned a normally festive season into one of fear and sadness.
Many mass gatherings in Iraq were cancelled on Friday, and Saturday services will be held during the morning for safety reasons.
Security measures have been stepped up after Al-Qaeda threats against Christians, with protective walls erected around some churches and the number of soldiers and police guarding churches strengthened.
On October 31, militants laid siege to Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation church, leaving 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security forces personnel dead in an attack claimed by Al-Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq.
Ten days later a string of attacks targeted the homes of Christians in Baghdad, killing six people and wounding 33 others.
On Friday, Chaldean Catholic archbishop Monsignor Louis Sarko said in a message from Kirkuk that Iraqi Christians must remain steadfast, despite their fears.
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