OTTAWA — In his annual Christmas message, Prime Minister Stephen Harper asks Canadians to pray for members of the military as they battle Islamic extremists in northern Iraq.

Canada has six CF-18 fighter jets in the Middle East as part of an international effort to help Iraq fight an insurgency by Islamic State militants.

Harper said Canadians are doing what they are known for — “protecting the vulnerable, promoting peace, and defending the freedom of all people.”

On the economy, Harper said that “despite the difficulties elsewhere in the world,” more Canadians have more opportunities and better jobs than at any time in the country’s history.

Harper also said that while we live in a beautiful, compassionate and prosperous country, we should “show kindness to the less fortunate” in the spirit of Christmas.