Iraqi Christians are preparing to celebrate their first Christmas together in areas liberated from ISIS, amid high security after calm has been restored following years of fear.
Iraqi Christians form an integral part of Iraq's civilization, as they are ethnically related to nations and peoples that built the early civilizations in Mesopotamia, such as Assyrians, Chaldeans and others.
In recent years, large numbers of Iraqi Christians have departed the country and went abroad, while many others have fled their villages and cities following a wave of violence committed by ISIS, which was threatening their existence.
But today Iraqi Christians are able to celebrate openly once again, as many poured in to pray at St. Joseph's Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq.
In Sulaymaniyah, the northern Kurdish region of Iraq, some 60 to 70 displaced Christian families living in Mosul and the Nineveh plains are currently preparing for the Mass.
According to official statistics, the number of Iraqi Christians before the US invasion was about one and a half million, while today it is less than 300,000.
On Dec. 10, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael sent a request to the head of the Iraqi parliament asking that the first day of Christmas be declared an official holiday in Iraq.
Though Iraq has not declared Dec. 25 an official holiday so far, Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government announced it will be halting schools on Tuesday for Christmas holidays.