Palestinian Christians afraid to leave Gaza

By January 7, 2009

Israel (MNN/OD) — An international ceasefire proposal may temporarily silence Israel's most recent offensive against Hamas. The attacks come after Hamas began firing missiles into Israel, violating a previous ceasefire agreement. However, Israel won't agree to it unless the international community guarantees that smuggling tunnels will be found, destroyed and not rebuilt.

In the meantime, organizations helping Palestinian Christians in Gaza are asking the world to pray.

A Christian church leader shares with Open Doors about the chaotic situation in Gaza: "Everybody suffers, but I feel especially bad for the children who are going through a very tough time."

He continues, "The children wake up several times in the middle of the night, crying or even screaming from fear and memories that come back to their minds. Right in front of our home you can see the repair work done to the street where a rocket came down in a previous clash. Many children are traumatized because of previous situations in Gaza. They have seen bodies lying on the streets that used to be their playground. Now it is all happening again."

The church leader adds, "The sound of bombings is terrifying. I sometimes call it 'the big voice' because it is ongoing. You always hear it, and you never know what building will be hit next."

In an e-mail, Suhad Massad, wife of pastor Hanna Massad and leader of the Palestinian Bible Society's ministry in Gaza, wrote, "The church building (Gaza Baptist) was damaged when the police station opposite of the church was bombed. In the attack, 40 people were killed instantly, but to the church only damage was done. The windows of the library fell down, but no members of the church were hurt."

The lower floors of the six-story church building were damaged by the blast. The church leader adds: "Fortunately, no member of the church was hurt because everybody stays at home. Hardly anyone has the courage to leave their houses; they dare not to go anywhere."

An estimated 2,500 Christians remain in Gaza. Last month many families tried to leave Gaza to visit family or friends in the West Bank to celebrate Christmas and find a safe place. But according to Suhad Massad, "Only permits were given to the elderly. Many people ages 18 to 35 were not allowed to leave Gaza. So several families are separated now, which is very difficult for them. Pauline Ayyad (widow of Rami Ayyad, manager of the Bible store in Gaza who was killed October 7, 2007) and her children were able to leave Gaza December 27 and are in the West Bank at the moment."

The church leader notes, "Those in Gaza sometimes have no idea what is going on. Very often the power is down so they have no radio, television or internet. People call their friends and family outside Gaza to stay updated about the situation in their own city."

Open Doors USA President/CEO Carl Moeller says Palestinian Christians have really no one to turn to. "They're not part of Hamas. They're not radical Islamic terrorists. And, they're not Israelis. So the Israelis see them as Palestinians, and the Palestinian terrorists see them as Christians who are not part of their Islamic movement. It's a tough place to be."

Moeller adds, "Open Doors is calling on Christians in the West to pray for Christians in Gaza in the wake of the bombings and ground surge. Pray that the war between Israel and Palestine is shorter and less devastating than what military and political speculators around the world are predicting. Pray that Christian families will be reunited. Pray that the Gaza Baptist Church building will be spared more damage from the assault. Pray for all the victims of the violence in Gaza and Israel."

Moeller says seeds of the Gospel have been planted. "Brother Andrew, our founder, has shared Christ with all of the leadership of Hamas. We're praying that these seeds that Andrew and others have sown would take root. Ultimately, the only hope for peace in Gaza is the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ."

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