This week, Christians and Muslims marked the birth of both Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad across the region, offering moments of respite from an otherwise tumultuous winter.
In Irbil, Iraqi Christians displaced by the Islamic State militant group celebrated Mass in a refugee camp, mere kilometers away from the front line.
In Iraq, Pakistan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, rings of security forces stood guard outside churches to protect those attending Christmas Mass.
Living Nativity scenes depicting the baby Jesus taking shelter with his parents evoked the plight of modern day refugees from the region’s wars seeking shelter in Europe.
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Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi paid a visit during Christmas week to Syrian children at a Lebanese public school serving refugees.
Children were dressed for the season in tiny suit jackets and Santa Claus suits. Everybody, it seems, loves to dress up as Baba Noel — hundreds of people in Pakistan, Lebanon and Israel paraded in the festive red and white costumes.
On a Tehran street, women in hijabs posed for photos with their husbands next to Christmas decorations and a veiled Shiite woman in Beirut queued up with her daughter for a portrait with Santa.
Colorful lighting displays made for enchanting scenes, the perfect backdrop for selfies.
In Gaza, Shati refugee camp is awash in color after a group of Palestinian artists transformed the war-ravaged grey concrete jungle.
In Afghanistan, U.S. troops marked the holiday with calls home, worship services and a traditional feast at the chow hall at Bagram Air Field, days after six Americans lost their lives while patrolling near the base.
In war-torn Yemen, Shiite rebels known as Houthis gathered in a Sanaa stadium to mark the birth of Muhammad, or Moulid al-Nabi, parading on horses painted green for the occasion. Colorful streamers were woven across alleys in the capital’s Old City, brightening up the gingerbread-colored homes in an area that has been inhabited for some 2,500 years.
AP Middle East Regional Photo Editor in Cairo curated this gallery. Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mayaalleruzzo
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