Easter celebrations mixed with hope and fear in the Middle East

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Easter celebrations mixed with hope and fear in the Middle East

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The Middle East has been the focus of Easter celebrations. In the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus, Orthodox Christians who mark Easter a week later than other denominations celebrated Palm Sunday. The day commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem before his crucifixion.

The scenes in the West Bank were repeated across the Middle East, which has been in the thoughts of many Christians in the west.

In England the Archbishop of Canterbury in his final Easter Sunday message urged Christians to, “support the beleaguered Christian communities in the Middle East and to help them stay in a context where they feel more and more unwelcome.”

In Gaza City its reckoned there are around 300 Roman Catholics, many of whom were at mass in the local Catholic church.

Those worshipping in Syria were remembered by Pope Benedict in his Easter message. The Pontiff implored the Syrian regime to heed international demands to end the bloodshed and said he hopes the joy of Easter will comfort Christians who are suffering because of their faith.

There are claims the majority of Christians in the city of Homs have been expelled by militant Islamists.

In Iraq security was tight outside St Joseph’s church in Baghdad as members of the congregation underwent security checks. Iraqi Christians have often been attacked by militant extremists and many have fled the country. Among the worshippers one woman echoed the words of Christian leaders from the West.

“I hope security and peace will prevail all over Iraq and the world too,” she said.