Pastor stuck in Egypt struggles to evacuate wife and children trapped in Gaza
Hanna Maher, former pastor of Gaza Baptist Church, has been stuck in Egypt since the beginning of the war. He is extremely concerned about his wife and three children, stranded in Gaza.
Janet Maher took refuge with her children and her cousin’s family at the Greek Orthodox church five days after the war started. Since then, her cousin had been killed in an airstrike.
Pastor Maher was born in Upper Egypt. He moved to Gaza and led his evangelical congregation between 2012-2020. He married Janet – daughter of an Orthodox father and Baptist mother – during the first year of service. They have visited Egypt regularly, even though there has been a blockade on the coastal strip since 2007. Pastor Maher accepted a position at the Presbyterian church in Beni Suef, 90 miles south of Cairo, in 2020 and thought they would never return to Gaza. However, he felt a strong commitment towards his congregation and returned to Gaza with his family in May 2022.
He was looking into raising funds for an educational development centre and returned to Egypt to look for religious benefactors on the 28th of September.
Since the war started, over 8,000 people have been killed in Gaza: 3,324 of those are children, with another 6,000 injured. According to reports from the Ministry of Public Works, 43% of all housing has been destroyed or damaged, and more than 1.4 million people have been forced out of their homes. Food and water shortages make people’s lives even more unbearable. Janet could only feed her children one meal daily, consisting only of bread and cheese. Their Tel al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City came under substantial Israeli bombing. 18 Christians had been killed in the attack, including Janet’s cousin, a close friend, the sister of an elder in the Baptist church, the Baptist librarian, his wife and granddaughter, and three children who regularly attended the Baptist Sunday school.
Pastor Maher said: “Janet was encouraging others in the shelter. Now, she needs someone to encourage her. I feel like Moses’ mother and sister after they put him in the bulrushes. All I can do is watch from afar. I can’t concentrate, I have no energy, and I couldn’t sleep after the attack on the church. I just watch the news and pray for my family.”