Gazan Christians 'closer than ever to crucified Saviour'

Mass at the Holy Family Church in Gaza City.(Photo: Holy Family Parish, Gaza)

Local sources have told Christian charities working in Gaza that the Christian community is facing their toughest time since the outbreak of the war with Israel, but their faith remains strong and continues to offer them encouragement amidst their travails.

"People walk for long hours to get a small box of food, which in the end is not even enough for three people," a source who requested they remain nameless told representatives from Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

"In this forced diet, sharing is becoming part of daily life and their new Christian identity."

Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical Foundation operating directly under the Holy See, and undertakes thousands of projects every year, providing emergency support for people experiencing persecution. ACN has been able to provide emergency aid that includes food coupons, medicine, and help with housing costs and tuition fees to 3,448 Christians in the Holy Land.

While ACN's UK office is only able to offer support in the West Bank and East Jerusalem due to anti-terrorism legislation that prevents funds from being transferred into Gaza, vital aid is getting through thanks to the charity's other national offices.

ACN is currently assisting other organisations in enabling the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem to provide two full meals a week and a loaf of bread every two days for each Gazan Christian.

The source revealed one of the greatest challenges facing aid workers is helping provide access to clean water - they say the current lack is causing the spread of disease.

"We have dirty water for toilets and sanitary units, and water is being purified using traditional methods," the source said.

"Children are suffering from a virus that causes nausea and diarrhoea – and [some] of the elderly are facing serious illnesses and would require immediate hospitalisation. This is impossible at the moment."

Despite these fraught circumstances, God's grace is still evident, with the local Christian community working together to care for one another. Over 500 Christians, including 120 children and 84 people over 65, are currently sheltering at the Holy Family Parish, Gaza's only Catholic church, where they are being cared for by a priest and seven religious sisters.

According to ACN's source, those sheltering at the church, which has come under threat from intense military clashes and shelling, have been able to participate in daily Mass and receive the catechism.

The parish has also been able to organise activities for children and is conducting meetings offering trauma healing through prayer, thanks to the help provided by the staff of the St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Centre, which had to relocate to the Holy Family compound after its own building was bombed.

Sister Nabila Saleh of the Rosary Sisters, one of the sisters staying at the church, called on fellow believers to offer prayers for peace, saying, "Pray for us, pray for the whole population, that this war might end."

According to ACN's local source, those sheltering at the church "are all exhausted – no one can really experience what they are going through."

However, he added that, "With God's grace, our children are now even closer to their faith than ever before.

"It is a very special Easter. We are closer than ever to the crucified Saviour."