Christians in countries where Christmas is not typically celebrated – or even banned in public – are putting up Christmas trees in their homes and sharing their holiday decorations with the hashtag #MyTreedom. A Facebook page sharing photos of Christmas celebrations has images and Christmas messages from Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and more. The page, launched in early December, has more than 24,000 likes.
"It's so heartwarming to see the courage and resilience they can show in the face of persecution," Lisa Daftari, a foreign affairs journalist from Los Angeles who started the page, told Daily Mail. "The goal is to raise awareness about the increased threat of global Christian persecution that is often missing from political headlines these days."
In many of the pictures, Christmas trees are reportedly pictured in countries where public displays of religion are not legal. In a number of Muslim-majority countries, Christians are only allowed to observe Christmas in the confines of their homes. In Brunei, an island nation near Malaysia, Christmas was recently banned in public.
One post from Iraq reads: “ Merry Christmas from Karbala, Iraq. A city of pilgrimage for Shiite Muslims and a haven for fleeing Iraqi Christians. But for how long? ISIS has threatened to march on Baghdad and Karbala. # MyTreedom”
Christmas arrives during a particularly difficult year for minorities in the Middle East. Many Christians and other minorities have been forced to flee Syria, often because of the broader war and instability, but also due to being the target of extremist militants, like the Islamic State group. Christians in some areas of Iraq and Syria under the militant group's control have been forced to pay a tax levied on minorities or to convert to Islam.
“Celebrating freedom from persecution and the right to Christmas everywhere around the world,” the My Treedom page reads.