Iraqi Christians gathered today to mark Christmas in the same church where less than two months ago dozens from their beleaguered community were killed by Muslim extremists intent on driving them from Iraq. The walls were pockmarked with bullet holes, plastic sheeting covered gaps where glass windows used to be and small pieces of dried flesh and blood remain stuck to the ceiling. "No matter how hard the storm blows, love will save us," Archbishop Matti Shaba Matouka told the congregation.
Iraqi church officials canceled many Christmas celebrations like appearances by Santa Claus or evening Mass, out of fear for their parishioners' safety after al-Qaida threatened more violence. But many of the more than 300 people gathered said they would not be cowed into abandoning their faith or their country. "I love my country. I buried my parents here. I can't leave it," says a 52-year-old woman who came to the morning service with her family. "We believe in God, and he will protect us."
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