Iraqi Christians cancel Christmas celebrations in solidarity with protests



Iraqi Christians attend mass on Christmas eve at the Grand Immaculate Church in the Ninawa province town of Qaraqosh on December 24th, 2018. [Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP]

The head of Iraq's Chaldean Catholic Church announced Tuesday (December 3rd) the community would not hold public celebrations of Christmas out of respect for those killed and wounded in recent protests.

The mass rallies rocking Iraq's capital and south have left nearly 430 dead and 20,000 wounded.

The protests have been concentrated in Shia-majority areas, but on Tuesday, a large segment of Iraq's Christian community said it would take part in an act of solidarity.

"There will be no decorated Christmas trees in the churches or streets, no celebrations and no reception at the patriarchate," announced the head of Iraq's Chaldean Catholic community, Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako.

Sako made the decision "out of respect for the dead and wounded among protestors and security forces, and in solidarity with the pains of their families".

As the demonstrations enter their third month, other non-Shia communities in Iraq have also expressed solidarity.

Sunni-majority Mosul has held funeral marches for those wounded further south and Salaheddine province announced three days of mourning for the fallen.

Hundreds of students also marched in multi-ethnic Kirkuk.

UN warns against violence

A UN envoy warned Tuesday that the continued use of violence against civilians in Iraq is "intolerable" and called on Iraqi leaders to respond with urgency to the Iraqi people's aspirations for change.

"Political leaders do not have the luxury of time and must rise to the moment," Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the UN envoy to Iraq, said in a video presentation to the UN Security Council.

The envoy noted that more than 400 people have been killed and more than 19,000 injured in two months of unrest in Iraq.

Last week, prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned in the face of a fresh wave of protests, and Iraqi leaders were meeting in Baghdad Tuesday to search for a way out of the crisis.

Hennis-Plasschaert warned that attempts to buy time with "band-aid solutions and coercive measures... will only further fuel public anger and distrust".

"The vast majority of protestors are evidently peaceful," Hennis-Plasschaert said. "Any and all forms of violence are intolerable, and must not distract from the rightful demands for reform."

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And why not? Aren't we Iraqis in blood, enthusiasm and humanity?! Thank you!