| How Gaza’s Christians View the Hamas-Israeli Conflict|
Baptist pastor Hanna Massad speaks openly about what he sees happening as he helps to shelter Gaza’s Christians and others during the current conflict.
Interview by Timothy C. Morgan and Deann Alford/ August 22, 2014
The summer of violence in Gaza and Israel on Tuesday entered its fifth week after rockets, fired from inside Gaza, broke the latest ceasefire. After the attack, Israel recalled its negotiators from peace talks in Cairo, and Israeli forces launched new airstrikes.
Since the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8, the IDF has completed 1,300 air strikes, and ground troops have destroyed more than 30 cross-border tunnels. Since January, combatants inside Gaza have fired about 3,000 rockets into Israel. It is the deadliest conflict between Palestinians and Israelis since the Second Intifada, which ended in 2005. As of mid-August, more than 2,000 have died in the current conflict, including 1,975 Gazans (combatants included), 64 Israeli soldiers, and two Israeli civilians.
The Christian minority inside Gaza has not been spared fatalities. But it has also offered shelter, food, education, and medical care to hundreds of Gazans. Hanna Massad, former pastor of the Gaza Baptist Church, has been coordinating Christian aid efforts from his current pastorate in Amman, Jordan. Massad is a graduate of Bethlehem Bible College and earned a doctorate in theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. There have been Christians in Gaza since the third century.
Timothy C. Morgan, senior editor, global journalism, and journalist Deann Alford interviewed Massad recently by phone and email as the conflict continued. CT is pursuing a similar interview from the perspective of Christians inside Israel on the latest conflict.
What are Christians inside Gaza telling you?
I was happy to hear about the ceasefire. This morning the news was that, unfortunately, the fighting has continued. Several times daily I communicate with Gaza by phone or Skype. Water supplies are very low in Gaza. There’s little or no electricity. I’ve spoken with my Muslim neighbors and Christians. All are waiting and anxious about what will happen next.
Are Gazans being sheltered in churches?
Gaza Baptist Church hasn’t been damaged, but it's next door to Gaza’s main police station, which is a target. The bombs have made it too dangerous for Baptist church members to meet. But thousands of Muslims have found refuge in other churches that have opened their doors to refugees. My neighbor called to ask if he and his family could move into my family home in Gaza. Now there’s almost 100 people living in my house. People throughout Gaza are taking care of each other.
Eastern Gaza is very dangerous. Most of north Gaza borders Israel. Through the Christian Mission to Gaza that I founded in 1999 and in partnership with Bethlehem Bible Society and Gaza Baptist Church, we’ve supplied food relief to hundreds of Muslim and Christians. Our goal is to help 1,000 families.
How many Christians remain in Gaza?
Four hundred families. Two months ago there were 1,333 individuals—mostly Greek Orthodox, Catholics, and Baptists.
How should Christians understand this conflict?
A Jew killing a Palestinian or Palestinian killing a Jew are symptoms of the problem. The root of the problem is the Israeli occupation of Gaza. As Christians we know there won’t be any peace in peoples’ lives without the Prince of Peace. But as long as this occupation continues, there will not really be a solution.
Even before the war, Gaza suffered more than 40 percent unemployment, while 80 percent of Gazans have been going to charities for food. We as Christians provide relief to both Christians and Muslims through the Christian Mission to Gaza, which reflects God’s love in a practical way. I teach in the Bethlehem Bible College extension campus in Gaza. We hope and pray that through these ministries we reflect Christ’s love in Gaza.
A picture of relatives mourning over the coffin of Jalila Ayyad, a 70-year-old Christian woman killed when her Gaza City home was destroyed in an Israeli air strike at :
| 2014/9/12 11:35||Profile|
| Palestinian Christian: Western Christians Don't Understand Gaza/Israeli Conflict|
By Morgan Lee , Christian Post Reporter
July 14, 2014|7:29 pm
Western Christians fail to fully grasp the suffering of Palestinians, including its Christian population, Bethlehem Bible College professor and Palestinian Christian told The Christian Post on Monday.
"The Christians in the west, most of them, they don't know the realities here. They don't know who is occupying who, who is oppressing who, who is confiscating whose land, who is building walls to try and separate people from one another," Alex Awad, who also pastors East Jerusalem Church, told The Christian Post.
"In the United States and much of Europe people — they just don't understand the realities on the ground," he added.
According to Awad, the reality is that the root causes of the Gaza conflict date back further than the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. Instead, he blames Israel for not following through with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's plan under which the country was required to free Palestinian prisoners, whom he suggested were unfairly imprisoned after protesting the West Bank settlements. Awad believes that its failure to follow through with this condition enraged an already angered (and economically deprived) Palestinian population. He also called the current fighting a "cover-up" for the settlements and a diversion to focus attention to Gaza, even as the real crisis took place in the West Bank.
"The news media doesn't tell [a] comprehensive story where the average person will understand the causes and effects," said Awad. "This thing did not happen in a vacuum. What's happening today in Gaza — the Israelis attack on Hamas' rockets in Israel — it did not happen in a vacuum. The way that the Israelis dealt with the prisoners on one side, and also the collapse of the peace process on the other side, created that anger that brought us to the position."
While Awad said that the current attacks have not yet left any Palestinian causalities — just before speaking with CP he confirmed that employees at his NGO in Gaza were safe — they remain in harm's way.
"The Palestinian Christians in Gaza today, they suffer as much as the Palestinian Muslims in Gaza. They are under bombardment. They have only eight hours of electricity of every 24 hours. They have a hard time getting fresh water," he said. "The Palestinian Christians, they don't live in an isolated area where oh, this is a Christian town. No, they live among the Muslims in Gaza and therefore as much as the Muslims are suffering, the Christians are suffering, not only in the Gaza strip but also in the West Bank."
Palestinian Christians have not turned violent, Awad emphasized.
"The Christians in the West bank and the Gaza strip are not part of the fighting. We are not fighting on the side of Hamas. We are not fighting on the side of Israel. Most Christians are very, very neutral. We know in our hearts, we side with our Palestinian brothers and sisters, even the Muslims, because we know they are the ones under occupation, they are the ones who are under oppression, and we see that because it is very obvious for people who live here who is actually violating the other human rights," said Awad.
"We are part and parcel of the rest of the Palestinian people. We believe in Jesus Christ. We are still Palestinian Arabs. We speak the Arabic language. We consider ourselves Palestinian," he added.
Awad said that despite the shared sense of "being under the same yoke of oppression" that unites him with his fellow Palestinians, his "heart goes out to any Muslim, Christian, Jew, Israeli, whatever their title, who may be affected by this unnecessary war."
Issa Tarazi, the executive director of the Near East Council of Churches, recently told the National Catholic Register that the airstrikes on Gaza "are affecting all Christians and Muslims; Christians suffer the same as all the other people of Gaza, the same threats and the same stress.
Palestinian Christians, some of whom like Awad live in Israel, have been in the middle of the violence since it started earlier this month.
According to the National Catholic Register, "In Israel, Christians who live in the areas hit by more than 350 Palestinian rockets in recent days have been forced to seek refuge in bomb shelters. In the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, which by Friday had sustained some 1,000 Israeli air strikes aimed at destroying Palestinian rockets and rocket launchers, the strip's small Christian community is trying to cope with the violence."
Meanwhile, Gaza's tiny Christian population of roughly 1,000 Christians, who live alongside the region's two million Muslims, have been targeted in violence that has killed nearly 200 Palestinians since fighting broke out. There have been no Israeli fatalities reported.
| 2014/9/12 12:44||Profile|