Merry Christmas from…everywhere. Yes, even countries where being Christian is a crime, punishable by death.
In the eye of increased Christian persecution around the world, a newly-launched Facebook campaign called My Treedom, posts daily photographs of Christmas trees and holiday decorations from some of the hardest places to live and practice as a Christian.
Launched by foreign affairs journalist Lisa Daftari, the project, which asks followers to send in their photos, is intended to celebrate “freedom from persecution and the right to Christmas everywhere around the world,” the page states.
There are pictures from Pakistan where attacks on Christians have recently escalated to areas of Iraq, steps away from the conflict with ISIS. The page ensures that all photo details including faces are blurred for protection.
Some are photos of Christians secretly celebrating in underground churches and homes, while others, like one photo of a large Christmas display in a department store in Dubai, U.A.E., show a more public celebration.
“The goal is to raise awareness about the increased threat of global Christian persecution that is often missing from political headlines these days,” Daftari, who has been covering human right stories in the MidEast for over a decade, said.
Daftari was first to break the story about Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and later Pastor Saeed Abedini who were both arrested by Iran’s regime for their faith.
“We are talking about countries where Christians made up a sizeable and significant segment of the native population. Many have had to flee their countries or face brutal persecution, solely because of their faith,” she said.
The response has been overwhelming, according to Daftari, who says she is shocked at some of the photos coming in from places like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Somalia.
Each month, 322 Christians are killed for their faith and 214 churches and property belonging to Christians are destroyed.
The State Department cites that Christians in 60+ countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors, with the 10 worst nations listed as North Korea, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Eritrea and Nigeria in a report conducted by Open Doors.
While in some countries converting to or practicing Christianity is punishable by death, other violent acts such as raping Christian women or taking them as sex slaves have become commonplace, particularly by ISIS militants.
Previously, some Christians were allowed to practice their religion by paying a minority tax, or Jizzya, but more recently, most are forced to convert or threatened with death.