BAGHDAD, Iraq – Security concerns kept many Iraqi Christians away from church Christmas Day, while U.S. troops in Baghdad celebrated the holiday as traditionally as possible – feasting on turkey and then relaxing at the pool table or computer screen.
At one Baghdad church, worshippers walked past armed security guards to attend their Christmas Day Mass.
Once inside, the small congregation at the Syrian Catholic Church lit candles, took part in holy communion and prayed for peace in their troubled homeland. Iraqi children in the church paid their respect to a nativity scene by kissing it.
Many Iraqi Christians, however, chose to stay home for the holiday.
Christians, mostly from the early Assyrian and Chaldean churches, have been on edge since August, when four churches in Baghdad and one in Mosul were blown up in a coordinated series of car bombings. Many feared their houses of worship would be targets on Christmas.
Meanwhile, U.S. troops at bases throughout the country celebrated as best they could, decking their mess halls with tinsel and sparkling Christmas trees, singing carols and feasting on holiday meals.
Soldiers at Camp Victory had a turkey feast Christmas Day, followed by pool, table tennis and a chance to write e-mails to their families back in the United States.