Christmas celebrated across Asia | india | Hindustan Times
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Christmas celebrated across Asia

india Updated: Dec 25, 2006 13:21 IST

Indonesia's Christians defied terror warnings and flocked to church in the mostly Muslim country on Christmas Day, while Australians threatened by wildfires received a longed-for gift - rain, and lots of it.

Asian Christians, a minority in most nations in the region, celebrated the birth of Jesus with services and family feasts.

In the Philippines, Asia's only predominantly Christian nation, a flurry of mobile phone text greetings swamped networks as midnight approached.

In mostly Buddhist Japan and Thailand, shoppers packed malls awash with tinsel, Christmas trees and special promotions, reflecting the ever-growing commercialisation of the season worldwide.

In continuing separatist violence in Sri Lanka, suspected Tamil Tiger rebels hurdled a grenade at a police post near a church in the northwest, killing a policeman and wounding three others, the government said.

In southern Thailand, Muslim insurgents shot and killed a soldier and a civilian.

Tens of thousands of police guarded churches in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation though also home to a significant Christian minority.

Six years ago, Muslim extremists bombed churches across the nation as they held Christmas services, killing 19 people.

The United States and Australia warned more attacks were possible this year. The advisories were not based on specific intelligence, but reflect a general belief that extremists are more likely to strike over the holiday season.

"Life and death are in the hands of God," said Lolita Utamisari after attending Mass at Jakarta's main cathedral. "We could die anytime, anywhere.

Residents in Australia's drought-affected southeast danced in the streets as summer rains drenched wildfires that have burned out of control for the past three weeks.

"It rained all last night and this morning," said Kirrily Pay, a hotel manager in Woods Point, Victoria, which has been under threat from the fires.

"We had the biggest party, we were absolutely ecstatic, we can't believe we're still here."

Around 800 volunteer firefighters were sent home for Christmas after the rains drenched the fires, which razed more than 8,700 sq kilometers of forest and farmland, destroying 32 houses and resulting in the death of a firefighter who fell off a trailer while battling the blaze.

Deep in the jungles of Myanmar, the country's ethnic Karen minority celebrated Christmas with prayers and carols in villages and makeshift camps that have been wracked by violence in recent months, witnessses said.

A year-long government offensive by the military junta has forced more than 25,000 to flee and killed dozens, rights groups say.

In Thailand, Christmas was about shopping, sunbathing and relaxing.

The beaches and bars in Phuket - a resort still recovering from the 2004 Asian tsunami - were packed with tourists.

Waitresses on Patong beach got into the spirit, dressing up as elves to hand out drink tickets.

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