I attended 8:30 a.m. Christmas mass at a Chaldean Christian church in the Karradah district of Baghdad. Many Chaldeans have been targetted in recent years by Islamic fundamentalists because Christians used to run liquor stores in the city, some of which were bombed. So were several churches. Many Christians have fled abroad, with thousands leaving northern Iraq where the situation is even dicier. Outside the Church of the Virgin Mary, there were two police vans for protection, along with a line of national police.
But in Karradah. Christians feel pretty safe and the church was full, with young women dressed in high heels and fancy boots and knee length skirts or fancy jeans, while their some of their mothers wore lace mantillas on their hair. A choir sang in the front near a Christmas tree, and there were several local TV cameras present; the Iraqi government has made Christmas an official holiday. When I exited the church, I saw a procession of cars passing by heading for the compound of the Shiite cleric Abdel Aziz Hakim, with his turbaned photo pasted on their hoods.