Christians around the world today face persecution from many sources. Nevertheless, we always have this hope: we are not forsaken, and He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.
Iraq has made Christmas Day a national holiday, its government confirmed this morning.
The Iraqi Cabinet approved an amendment to its national holidays law which creates a new official one ‘on the occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ‘.
Previously, Christmas Day had been designated as a religious break only for the Iraqi Christian community, but the amendment extends the holiday to everyone.
There are thought to be only around 300,000 Christians remaining in the country, the vast majority of whom are Aramaic-speaking ethnic Assyrians.
Before western countries’ invasion of the country in 2003, Iraqi Christians numbered around 1.4 million, but the onslaught of violence forced hundreds of thousands to flee, either to Iraqi Kurdistan or further abroad.
They have also found themselves persecuted on religious grounds by so-called Islamic State in recent years. Christians living areas under ISIS control were ordered to pay a large tax, convert to Islam, or be killed.
But now their Lord is being recognized officially. The Iraqi people have suffered tremendously for decades, first under a ruthless dictator, then in an international crossfire between the West and radical Islamists. But it is just like our God to bring beauty from such ashes. I was one of thousands who served there, what seems like a lifetime ago, and I pray this is but the start of a great work by the Spirit in that land.
Merry Christmas! The Christ Child is still in the business of setting captives free.
Note: there’s an observation made by the composition of this photo I took. See if you can find it. If you do, feel free to share it in the comments.