For the first time, Iraq declares Christmas a national holiday – Kurdistan 24, 2018/12/25
As members of the Iraqi Christian community celebrated Christmas, the Council of Ministers agreed to make Dec. 25 an annual public holiday throughout the country.
This is the first time that the Iraqi government has announced the observance as a national holiday that includes all citizens after being limited only to Christians for decades. In doing so, the rest of the nation joins the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region that has long included Christmas in its public holidays.
A statement issued by the office of the Iraqi Prime Minister mentions that the cabinet decided to suspend official work on Dec. 25 and also voted to amend the official holiday law to include Christmas. It is expected to be approved by parliament, the last step in the process.
The Christian community in Iraq has, for decades, suffered persecution for their faith. In 2014, when the so-called Islamic State (IS) emerged in Iraq, tens of thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes, with many seeking refuge in the Kurdistan Region. The jihadi group killed Christian civilians, forced some to convert to Islam, and destroyed or desecrated churches in cities like Mosul which it controlled.
“We have militarily defeated Da’esh [Islamic State (IS) group] and continue to erase their terrorist ideology,” Abdul-Mahdi continued, adding that his government will continue to rebuild the country after years of war and will help those displaced to return to their homes.
“We support your efforts to meet the challenge of reconstruction and the achievement of peace,” the prime minister said, calling on Christians and Muslims to “sow the seeds of love, peace, and coexistence and diversity as a source of strength for all.”