Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem last night and attended a midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity. From the Associated Press:
Thousands of Christian pilgrims on Tuesday flocked to the West Bank town of Bethlehem, celebrating Christmas Eve in the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
Visitors converged on the town’s large Christmas tree in Manger Square, near the spot believed to mark Jesus’ birthplace. Uniformed Palestinian scouts wearing yellow and gold capes paraded past assembled visitors, the sound of drums and bagpipes filling the cool, clear air. Vendors hawked snacks and holiday gifts, adding to the festive atmosphere.
Roger Hoagland, a Christian educator and missionary from Louisville, Kentucky, said he had come to lead a Baptist choir for a fourth time and described his visit as the experience of a lifetime.
Fox News correspondent Trey Yingst got a closer look at a piece of wood, a relic provided by the Vatican, from Jesus' crib.
The Pope’s Custodian to the Holy Land shows us a piece of the crib that Jesus is said to have laid in. pic.twitter.com/fVZXDdzCXj— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) December 24, 2019
Meanwhile, throughout the Middle East brave worshippers celebrated Christmas under threat of violence.
*Copts, Chaldeans, Syriacs-Arameans, Assyrians, Maronites, Palestinians, Armenians, & more are preparing for Christmas across the Middle East.??????— Iraqi Christian Foundation (@iraqschristians) December 23, 2019
According to a number of studies, Christians are now the most persecuted religious group in the world. Further, the BBC reported earlier this year the dwindling number of Christians in the Middle East has reached "genocide levels."
The persecution of Christians in parts of the world is at near "genocide" levels, according to a report ordered by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The review, led by the Bishop of Truro the Right Reverend Philip Mounstephen, estimated that one in three people suffer from religious persecution.
Christians were the most persecuted religious group, it found.
Mr Hunt said he felt that "political correctness" had played a part in the issue not being confronted.
The interim report said the main impact of "genocidal acts against Christians is exodus" and that Christianity faced being "wiped out" from parts of the Middle East.
It warned the religion "is at risk of disappearing" in some parts of the world, pointing to figures which claimed Christians in Palestine represent less than 1.5% of the population, while in Iraq they had fallen from 1.5 million before 2003 to less than 120,000.
"Evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution, but also its increasing severity," the Bishop wrote.