By Simon Kent.
Christmas has been celebrated in Baghdad for centuries, but over time the small Christian minority has been dwindling at an alarming rate, especially since they have been singled out by ISIS. There are now thought to be only half a million Christians left in Iraq, out of a population that was once over a million.
Nonetheless, Christmas has an appeal to non-Christians in Iraq, just as it is popular in Japan and elsewhere. The difference in Iraq this year is that since ISIS took over swathes of northern Iraq and started singling out Christians with the ultimatum to convert or die, many Iraqis have shown displays of solidarity with the Christians.
It is a trend which arguably began in 2010 when terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq broke into the Church of our Lady Salvation in Baghdad and massacred over 60 worshipers.
This prompted calls from Iraqi politicians for greater protection of Christians, and the following year the Iraqi army protected the Church. Even radical cleric Moqtada al Sadr called for greater measures to protect the minority.
This week the trend continued, with gifts being distributed to children by men in Santa costumes at a camp for Christian refugees near Baghdad, and a 25 metre tall Christmas tree being erected in the centre of Baghdad.
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