The ordeal of Christians in Gaza continues
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have besieged Gaza City centre to get rid of Hamas’ military control over the territory. The number of casualties is constantly ascending, based on the latest figures it is up to 11,000 civilian victims.
Christianity in Gaza dates back to the 4th century when Saint Hilarion set up monastic communities in the area. Saint Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church is the oldest, still functioning religious establishment, named after St. Porphyrius, a 5th-century bishop of Gaza. The church is one of the three oldest places of Christian worship in the world, predating the Islamic influence in the region.
Many Christians have lived in Gaza and the bordering cities for centuries. Others are descendants of the Arab Christian circles from cities on the Mediterranean coasts, such as Joppa. They arrived in Gaza after the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948.
When Israel withdrew from Gaza following the Disengagement Plan Implementation Law in 2005, various Palestinian parties engaged in a competition for power, with Hamas taking control in 2007. Christians got stuck in the crossfire of these conflicts between Hamas and Israel. The nearly 17-year Israeli-led blockade of the Gaza Strip contributed to the high rates of unemployment, poverty, and political hardships for all civilians. There have been travel limitations in place for Gaza’s Christians to visit relatives and Christian Holy sites in Jerusalem and the West Banks. Only 50% of Gaza’s Christians were approved by the Israeli government to travel in 2022. All these factors contributed to a sharp decline in the Christian population since 2007.
Many of the best-equipped and most efficient medical, educational, and business establishments are run by Christians, such as the recently attacked Ahli Arab Hospital, a Baptist mission hospital. More than 80% of Gaza’s Christians are Greek Orthodox. Around 100 Roman Catholics belong to the Latin parish of the Church of the Holy Family. The remaining are members of the Baptist/Protestant church of Gaza.
As a result of the conflicts and restrictions, Christian communities in Gaza have been isolated from global support. According to a secret Christian, Hamed: “Like Muslims in Gaza, Palestinian Christians are also suffering. We hardly go outside the house. The situation is very dangerous. There are missiles and rockets flying everywhere, bombs going off. It’s so scary.”