BAGHDAD, IRAQ (Worthy News)-- "Many" church services have been canceled in Iraq over the Christmas period following deadly attacks and new terror threats, several church groups said Friday December 24.
Middle East Concern (MEC), which represents Christians in the region, said several churches were closed in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk after threats of attacks were posted on the websites of armed groups. "The decision was taken after the threats were repeated on Tuesday, December 22. Churches in these cities have decided not to erect any Christmas decorations, and have canceled all services during the hours of darkness," MEC explained.
"One of the threats called for the release of two women whom extremists in Egypt claim are being held against their will by Egyptian church leaders. The extremists claim that the two ladies have converted to Islam." Egyptian church leaders have denied the claims, as have Egyptian government officials. MEC said Christian communities have lived with "intense fear" since 58 people were killed during an attack on the Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad on October 31.
It cited United Nations estimates that 1,000 Christian families have fled from Baghdad and Mosul to the Kurdish region in northern Iraq since the attack. "The authorities are endeavoring to provide what protection they can, including constructing tall concrete barriers around church buildings with airport-style security at the entrances."
Barnabas Fund, another group supporting Christians in Iraq, told Worthy News that refugees leave behind their homes, possessions and work.
"Although the authorities have promised to give $400 to every family who moves, some are saying that this is not enough to cover even one month’s rent for an apartment in the north."
Barnabas Fund quoted an unidentified senior church leader involved in organizing aid for Iraqi Christian refugees in Syria as saying that “Their conditions are no longer bearable." The leader, apparently speaking on condition of anonymity, said the people are "living behind locked doors...In some of the cities even the streets are almost empty of Christians... It is as if they are in prison...Fear rules over all situations and in all places."