Gaza conflict halts church services, pastor keeping in touch with stranded flock by phone

Palestinians watch rescuers searching for bodies and survivors under the rubble of an apartment building, destroyed by an Israeli missile strike, in Gaza City, Monday, July 21.AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

The insecurity in Gaza has made life hard for the people living there, including Christians who haven't been able to get to church for service.

The latest fighting has forced the small Baptist community to halt its church services, Open Doors reports. 

One contact living in Gaza said their church had considered holding services during the cease fire but it soon became apparent that the cease fire wasn't being kept.  

Hanna Maher, pastor of the Baptist church in Gaza City, has not been able to visit everyone in his congregation and has been forced to keep in touch by phone with those he cannot get to in person.  

Even then, the contact is intermittent as the phone lines are not always working.  

The Open Doors country coordinator for Israel and Palestinian area explains: "The Baptist church and the library of the church are right across the street from a police station. That police station has been attacked several times, so it is a potential dangerous area. The authorities also requested to have the library closed for the time being."

Largely Muslim Gaza is home to around 2,000 Christians. One Greek Orthodox church and one Roman Catholic continue to worship in the Gaza Strip and have opened their doors to refugees from areas coming under fire.  

Some Christians have been given advance notice of attacks on nearby buildings and time to leave their apartments, but Open Doors reports one Greek Orthodox woman in her sixties, Jalila Ayyad was sadly killed in an attack last week.  

Another believer explained that entire apartment buildings are closed down even if only one apartment is damaged, because of the fear of collapse.  It means that even those who have not actually lost their homes in the conflict are having to find somewhere else to stay.   

One Gaza believer told Open Doors: "Over 160,000 people have no houses these days. Many of them come to Gaza City to live with relatives.

"We see the difference and that it is even more crowded than before. This is a big burden for the families living here, but we do what we can to help. If it is necessary then we welcome relatives who need help."

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