LONDON -- From Bethlehem to the camps of NATO troops in Bosnia, Christians in some of the most violence-shattered corners of the world celebrated this year's Christmas with prayers for future peace.
Elsewhere, the year's 2000th commemoration of Christ's birth was marred by a wave of church bombings on Christmas Eve in Indonesia and gloom in the Holy Land caused by Israeli-Palestinian violence.
In Indonesia, many Christian worshippers stayed home from services Monday after the blasts at churches in nine cities killed 15 people and injured nearly 100.
The government, meanwhile, was trying to prevent the bombings from sparking further religious violence in the world's most populous Muslim nation. Thousands of security forces went on alert ahead of celebrations by Muslims starting Tuesday night to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Pope John Paul II said he was dismayed by the attacks. "Our brothers and sisters in faith, even on this Christmas Day, are undergoing a tragic time of trial and suffering," he said.
In his traditional Christmas Day message "Urbi et Orbi" (Latin for "to the city and to the world"), the 80-year-old pope lamented the "endless streams" of refugees from conflicts around the world and lamented fighting in the Middle East, where "violence continues to stain with blood the difficult path to peace."
In Kosovo, Serbian authorities said four Serbs were kidnapped over the weekend on their way to family Christmas celebrations in the town of Gnjilane. They were freed on Monday, the official Tanjug news agency said, but it gave no further details.
Hopes for a bustling tourist trade this Christmas in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, were dashed as only thin crowds of pilgrims trickled into the West Bank town.
Across Israel and its occupied territories, at least 345 people have been killed in three months of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, most of them Palestinians. In Iraq, President Saddam Hussein called on Christians and Muslims around the world to wage holy war against Israel.
But there were glimmers of reconciliation amid the holiday's strife.
In Istanbul, the leaders of 13 Orthodox Christian churches gathered at the city's Byzantine cathedral to observe Christmas together for the first time in their history.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said the church was striving for "peaceful resolution among peoples, nations and various churches."
In Mexico, evacuees from towns around the Popocatepetl volcano celebrated despite being away from their homes: They played with pinatas and ate turkey dinners in shelters where they have been living since the peak outside Mexico City had its biggest eruption in over a millennium last week.
The world's political leaders used the holiday to urge peace.
Queen Elizabeth II urged an audience to follow Jesus' simple but powerful teaching to "treat others as you would like them to treat you."
At the center of NATO efforts to maintain the peace in the Balkans, U.S. troops in northern Bosnia decorated their barracks with Christmas trees and colored lights. Soldiers from Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal held a dinner, attended Mass and sang songs in Mostar, southern Bosnia.
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