GAZA CHRISTIANS PROTEST FORCED CONVERSIONS
Dozens of Christians in Gaza staged a public protest, claiming two congregants were forcibly converted to Islam.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 7/17/2012, 12:38 PM
Dozens of Christians in Gaza staged a public protest on Monday, claiming two congregants were forcibly converted to Islam and were being held against their will, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Gaza police claim that the two, a 25-year-old man and a woman with three children, embraced Islam of their free will and are staying with a Muslim religious official because they fear retribution from their families for converting to Islam.
Since Hamas seized power of Gaza five years ago, Christians have been subjugated and oppressed, but have mostly kept silent.
In recent years, the Christian population decreased from approximately 3,500 to about 1,500, mainly due to emigration, according to community estimates. They are a tiny minority among 1.7 million Palestinians living in Gaza, most of whom are conservative Muslims.
"If things remain like this, there'll be no Christians left in Gaza," said Huda Al-Amash, mother of one of the converts, Ramez, 25. "Today it's Ramez. Then who, and who will be next?"
The two converts, Al-Amash, and Hiba Abu Dawoud, 31, could not be reached for comment. Abu Dawould took her three daughters with her.
On Monday, groups of men and women stood in groups in the square of the ancient Church of Saint Porphyrius, angrily chanting, "Bring back Ramez!" One man angrily hit the church bell, according to the AP.
"People are locking up their sons and daughters, worried about the ideas people put in their head," said Al-Amash's mother, Huda.