Christians in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and other countries where the faith is persecuted are sharing photos of their Christmas trees to defy oppression.
They are being posted on social media by the My Treedom campaign, which aims to “celebrate freedom from persecution and the right to Christmas everywhere around the world”.
One image posted to its Facebook page claims to show a tree in Saudi Arabia, where conversion to Christianity from Islam is legally punishable by death, although no executions have been carried out for the offence in recent years.
Another shows a shopping centre decked out with festive decorations in Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, where thousands of Christians have been among the refugees fleeing the onslaught of Isis.
Christmas tree photos have also been sent in from Iran, Syria, Pakistan and Brunei, where public festivities and decorations were outlawed last December by the increasingly hardline government.
#MyTreedom was started by journalist Lisa Daftari, who edits the Foreign Desk website.
“The response has been truly heartwarming and overwhelming,” she told the Independent.
“I received photos from Iran, Iraq, Kurdistan, Pakistan, Brunei, Bahrain, Somalia, Sudan and even from a woman in Saudi Arabia who told me about how she smuggled her Christmas tree into the country by hiding it in a suitcase.
“This is how Christians are standing up to oppression, and this is the beauty of human nature demonstrating the people’s determination to live life despite the harsh realities that is so often lost in mainstream reporting.”
Ms Daftari said she aimed to raise awareness of Christian persecution around the world as well as sharing some “happier stories”.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a UK-based Catholic campaign group, warned that Christianity “could disappear completely” in parts of the Middle East within a decade in a report earlier this year.
It chronicled a dramatic decline in the faith over the last two years largely due to what it called the “religiously motivated ethnic cleansing” in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and other countries hit by Islamist insurgencies.
Editor John Pontifex said: “Far from laying the entire blame for persecution against Christians at the door of extremist Islam, many of the problems stem from non-Muslim extremist – nationalist – faith groups and historically communist totalitarian regimes.”
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