Christians mark somber holiday season in Gaza

By January 1, 2008

Gaza (MNN) — A senior Hamas militant is suspected of torturing and killing
the manager of a Christian bookstore in the Gaza Strip who was found dead last
month. That's an alarming development, says Open
Doors USA's
Carl Moeller, because Hamas has previously provided a certain
degree of protection for the Christian community.  

"The most disappointing aspect of this discovery is that not only is
this a Hamas person who committed this crime, apparently, but also that despite
the assurances right after the murder that they had nothing to do with it, they
haven't distanced themselves from him and in fact have sent him on a pilgrimage
to Mecca." 

Rami Ayyad's murder sent shudders through the tightly-knit community.
Christmas found a low-profile celebration in the region, the observance
suppressed by fears of violence.

The concern over Hamas' alleged involvement is confirmed by Moeller. The person thought responsible for the attack
is Ashraf Abu Layla, the central Gaza chief of Hamas' so-called military wing.

Ayyad, a Baptist, was accused by Gaza-based Islamic groups of engaging in
missionary activities. His bookstore, owned by the Palestinian Bible Society,
was firebombed in April. 

SAT-7's Terry Ascott
says it's no wonder that believers feel like they're under siege. "Pray
for the Bible Society director and all the Bible Society staff throughout the
Palestinian territories, that they wouldn't be discouraged by this. Pray that
the Word of God would continue to be made available throughout the territories.
We have a strong partnership with the Bible Society, and we very much see what
we do as complimenting their work, by taking Scripture to satellite

That means ministry continues, although the other impact of this, he
explains, is the disruption of ministry. "The killing of the bookstore
owner who's associated with the Bible Society has led actually to all the
related staff to that shop being evacuated from Gaza. There's just one person
left who could not yet receive permission from the Israeli authorities to cross
out of Gaza."

Open Doors' Moeller says Christians are asking prayer for boldness. "Believers who
continue to promote their faith evangelistically, despite their commitment to
the general welfare of Gaza, and their commitment to the people of Gaza to
serve them, that there will be increasing threat against their existence in
Gaza as a result of this."

There are estimates that up to 70% of the Christian community plan to leave at
the earliest opportunity. Pray for the
staff of the Bible Society. There is already a remnant church in Gaza; pray for
the safety of those who remain, that their faith will speak loudly. 


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