by Sharon Rondeau

(Dec. 25, 2018) — On Monday the government of Iraq tweeted that Christmas is now an “official holiday” throughout the country, once under the control of brutal dictator Saddam Hussein.

“Happy Christmas to our Christian citizens, all Iraqis and to all who are celebrating around the world,” the government account said on Monday.

In 2003, then-President George W. Bush asked Congress to approve military action in Iraq out of fear that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which could be used in a 9-11-type attack.

Iraq’s government now consists of a parliament, president, cabinet and prime minister.  While the vast majority of Iraqis are Muslim, the nation’s new constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

Since its rise in 2014, Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists threatened to annihilate Iraq’s Christian population, which may currently hover around 400,000, Reuters reported Tuesday.  “ISIS” stands for “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” and sought to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East and beyond.  The group organized out of a power vacuum stemming from the Syrian civil war, later slaughtering Iraqi Christians and Yazidis in an attempt at ethnic and religious cleansing.

Thousands of Christians fled Iraq during ISIS’s rise, which saw hundreds of Yazidi women taken captive.  Upon their release, if they survived, many showed signs of serious psychological impairment from their ordeals, The New York Times reported last year.

In 2016, Iraqi forces began to retake territory captured by ISIS, and the town of Bartella celebrated Christmas mass that year after it was decimated by the terror group.  A year ago, Iraq declared ISIS defeated, The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday amid a list of cities and towns now celebrating Christmas with less fear than before.

Most Christians previously living in Mosul, however, have not returned, according to The Post.

According to OpenDoorsUSA, Christian persecution is increasing in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.  Last year, North Korea prohibited anyone from celebrating Christmas, and China has stepped up arrests of Christians practicing their faith in “underground churches.”




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