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.
Moeller confirms the reports he's heard that the person thought to be responsible for Rami Ayyad's murder was Ashraf Abu Layla, the central Gaza chief of Hamas' so-called military wing.
"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."
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. After numerous death threats, Ayyad was kidnapped, tortured and finally shot to death just over six weeks ago.
His murder has persuaded many in the 3,000-strong Christian community they are no longer welcome in Gaza. 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."
Ibrahim Ayad, brother to Rami, estimates that up to 70% of the Christian community would leave when they had the opportunity, possibly at Christmas, when Israel usually allows Christians some movement out of Gaza.
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.