In Iraq, Easter is a larger celebration than Christmas for Christians. Even in some villages as close as 9 miles from Islamic State-controlled areas, believers are not afraid to celebrate Holy Week.
Christians started with observance of Palm Sunday. Later this week believers will observe more special days, such as the day of the washing of the feet on Thursday, Good Friday, the Saturday of Light and then Easter this Sunday. Many celebrations, masses and activities are planned. Some denominations celebrate everything one week later. The Sunday after Easter is called “New Sunday.”
Christians aren’t particularly afraid of violence from Islamic State terrorists during the celebrations. There were more threats for the celebration of Nowruz last week. Islamic State threatened to attack, but there was no violence. Nowruz is similar to a New Year’s celebration, observing the arrival of spring. It is observed by some Persian and Central Asian communities.
Many Iraqi refugees had set their hopes on being back home by Easter, but they are still in the many camps in northern Iraq.
A local Christian involved in relief work says: “Easter also gives new hope. We are celebrating the resurrection from the death of Jesus Christ, but we are also looking forward to a resurrection in each of our hearts.”
Iraq is ranked No. 3 on Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.
Open Doors urges prayers for persecuted Christians around the world during Holy Week. In the past Christians have been especially targeted by violence from terrorist groups during Easter events.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575.