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Messages from Iraq: 25 December 2002
There is little feeling that this is Christmas Day, although I was able to make a phone call home which was lovely. There is a small christmas tree in the lobby of the hotel sitting next to a portrait of the president. But outside the hotel, life continues as normal - at least on the surface. A lot of men are hanging around and I am fairly sure that there is a recruitment centre just round the corner, with lots of young men standing around. There is also a definite military presence on the streets. But I have not been stopped or felt at all intimidated.
Last night we had a vigil with carols outside St Rapheal's Catholic Church [photo].
This was followed by a service in the church led by the bishop and with an amazing series of nativity scenes from children with songs and carols, almost like a pantomime. About 8 or 9 TV crews were there and I imagine the setting with the children was all very photogenic. It didn't feel too much like worship with TV Francaise cameramen moving about all the time just in front of me. At the end a Father Christmas came up the aisle and joined the festivities [photo] And then I was ushered out in the middle of it all to be interviewed by a Reuters journalist. But I hope the TV will have had some publicity.
The Voices in the Wilderness Peace Team has about 20 people in it with two other groups arriving next week, one of 11 people from Christian Peace Action and then I believe a group of celebrities ... not sure who. If they are from the US it has to be kept secret as it is illegal for them to come.