President Obama has issued a statement paying tribute to persecuted Christians around the world who are not free to celebrate the Christmas holiday, one of the most holy days on the Christian calendar.
Obama said Thursday that he and first lady Michelle Obama hold in mind "those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution," such as areas of the Middle East where Islamic State militants have silenced the traditional ringing of church bells.
Obama said he joins people around the world in praying for God's protection of persecuted Christians and people of other faiths, as well as the men and women who work in military, diplomatic, or humanitarian efforts to end suffering and bring hope to their nations.
Two of the nations where Christians may not celebrate this year's holiday are Somalia and Brunei, which have banned all overt celebrations of Christmas.
In Somalia officials said all events related to Christmas and New Year celebrations are contrary to Islamic culture, and might invite Islamist attacks.
Last year Al-Shabab militants staged a Christmas attack on the Mogadishu airport that killed at least 12 people.
In Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has been moving the nation to sharia law.
Religious leaders there have announced a ban on all visible celebrations or symbols of Christmas and forbidden Muslims from participating in any activity that could be interpreted as relating to Christmas.