ROME, DEC. 24, 2011 (Zenit.org).- For Christians in so many countries around the world — Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, and others — and even for Christians in Bethlehem, the celebration of Christmas means facing particular difficulty.
In Iraq, for example, where another round of suicide bombings on Thursday killed some 70 people, there will be no Midnight Mass.
Iraq’s Christians spend Christmas in “great fear,” Archbishop Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk, northern Iraq, told Aid to the Church in Need.
He said that it will not be possible to hold Midnight Mass because of the high security risk — all services over the festive period will be held in daylight — and Christians are not displaying Christmas decorations outside their homes.
In Pakistan, meanwhile, the Fides news agency reported that more than 2,500 police will be protecting Christian churches during Christmas. Local sources told the agency that some 430 churches in Pakistan will have “special security measures.”
“There are about 2,500 police, including snipers, to protect the faithful Christians at Christmas,” said a police spokesman in Lahore, in Punjab, home to the majority of Christians and their places of worship. “We have given priority to 38 churches, 20 of which are widely attended by foreign Christians participating in the Christmas Mass.”
Christians make up about 3% of the Pakistani population. As reported to Fides by official sources, over the past five years, nearly 5,000 people have been victims of attacks by fundamentalist groups in Pakistan: a quarter of the victims are Christians.
In Bethlehem, few Christians remain to celebrate Christmas at the site of Jesus’ birth. [The Christians are squeezed between two forces: Israel and Muslims. They are leaving in droves.]
But Christmas “is an opportunity to encourage [these Christians] to stay there,” said the Franciscan custos of the Holy Land, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, “and become more anchored to their town and to their identity.”
Imagine Christians in China, North Korea and many other such places. Lord, bless them all.