Two Irish bishops are calling on the faithful to pray for Christian families in the Holy Land affected not only by war but the most violent winter experienced by the region in decades.
Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly and Bishop Ray Browne, who went to the Holy Land last week as part of a delegation promoting peace and respect for human dignity, said they were deeply affected by the living conditions of people in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
"We have all seen the images on the television news and read the column inches in newspapers and magazines but when you are there in person - meeting families whose lives have been devastated, who don't have a roof to put over their heads, basic food to put on the table, and are witnessing children dying of exposure - you very quickly come to realise just how deeply distressing the situation is for the people of Gaza," they said in a statement released by the Irish Bishops' Conference.
The prelates further said that the faithful should open their hearts to the cries of the people in Gaza and other areas, who are suffering amid the devastation surrounding them.
"We encourage Irish faithful to continue to pray for the suffering people of Gaza, specifically the diminishing Christian community which is caught in the crossfire of conflict. We take this opportunity to thank everyone for their on-going and generous support for Trócaire's work in the Holy Land and, while acutely conscious of the challenges facing the budget of many Irish families, we humbly ask that this support would continue," they added.
Violent storms, heavy snow, high winds and freezing temperatures are now affecting refugees in Iraq, Syria and Gaza, who were earlier displaced by conflict from their homes. Charity organisations and relief groups are now pitching in to provide the families with their basic needs.
In a report by the Independent Catholic News, relief groups have indicated that homes now suffer from lack of electricity, no fuel and gas amid -8 freezing conditions.
Caritas workers in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq have pooled their resources to provide fuel, blankets and heaters to help the victims ward off the cold while Christian Aid has released emergency funds to purchase blankets, sheeting, stoves and fuel for the thousands who are living in temporary shelters in Gaza and Lebanon.
At least three people have died from the storm in Syria alone while 11 children so far have been taken to the hospital for hypothermia. The Gaza Health Ministry has confirmed the deaths of four children due to hypothermia.