Church weathering Israeli strikes

By January 1, 2009

(MNN) — A tiny church in the Gaza Strip has been caught in the crossfire of an
"unprecedented amount of violence against the Palestinian people," said Carl
Moeller of Open Doors

"It's extremely distressing news for obvious reasons,"
Moeller said. "Hundreds of Palestinians
have been killed, and obviously, escalation of violence is not something that we
are seeing as at all constructive to bringing peace to the region." 

The Baptist church in Gaza
was located right across the street from a police station that was targeted by
the Israelis for bombing. The church is
now destroyed, with its windows blown out as well as other damage. 

"It brings back a lot of poignant memories for me, how
joyous the time was when we were there to dedicate that building, brother
Andrew, myself and others, but now it's obviously right there in the center of
a great deal of destruction," Moeller said. "The people in the Christian community there have been meeting in small
groups in homes."

The Christians have described to Open Doors some of the
horrors they are experiencing as their city is bombed. Some, including the workers with the
Palestinian Bible Society, have fled to the West Bank. The church's pastor, Pastor Hanna, has fled
the Middle East. Out of about 1.7 million people in the Gaza
Strip, there are only a few hundred Christians left. 

"It's remarkable how much that the church is facing there,"
Moeller said. "And yet the Christians
continue to pray; they continue to cry out to God; and when they can, reach out
to their neighbors with comfort."

Politically, Palestinian Christians are not accepted by Israel or by
their own community. The Christian
community, Moeller explained, is a "humanitarian and religious group caught in
the crossfire of a political and military situation."

"They have no place at the table," he said. "By Israel's standards, they're
Palestinians; and by the Hamas and the radical Islamist standards, they're
outsiders because they're Christians. So they really are literally caught
within the crossfires of both sides." 

This leaves the church in a precarious position, and it
desperately needs support from Open Doors.  

"It's very difficult, and of course now with the military
operations impossible, to directly get material aid to the believers there,"
Moeller said. "But because of the
precarious nature of the church — how fragile it is and how vulnerable it is to
be snuffed out even at this time — we must get the material resources that the
Christians there need just to survive –the food, clothing, and medical care
that they desperately need." 

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