Iraqi Christians Cancel Christmas Al-Qaeda threatens more violence against the beleaguered minority By Mark Russell, Newser Staff Posted Dec 23, 2010 7:49 AM CST 12 comments Comments Christian leaders in Iraq canceled Christmas celebrations, amidst threats from al-Qaeda in Iraq. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban) (Newser) – Iraq's Christian leaders have canceled Christmas services and urged worshippers not to decorate their homes this year after they received fresh threats from al-Qaeda in Iraq on Tuesday. Even an appearance by Santa Claus was called off, reports the AP. "Nobody can ignore the threats of al-Qaeda against Iraqi Christians," said an archbishop. "We cannot find a single source of joy that makes us celebrate. The situation of the Christians is bleak." Tensions in the Christian community have grown worse since a church was attacked Oct. 31, killing 68 people and unleashing a wave of violence against the religious minority. Since then, 1,000 Christian families have fled to the more tolerant, Kurdish-ruled region in northern Iraq. Although there are no reliable numbers, US State Department estimates there are as few as 400,000 Christians in Iraq today, down from 1.4 million before the war.