Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا

Published on Friday, 23 February 2024
Gaza Strip: Conditions for the remaining small Christian community have deteriorated
Despite these difficulties, one priest and seven women religious are working to support the Christians who found refuge in the Catholic parish of the Holy Family.

Maria Lozano/ :

According to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)’s sources, conditions for the small Christian community that remains in the Gaza Strip have deteriorated over the last four months. Since the conflict began, 30 Christians have died in Gaza.


The situation in Gaza is increasingly desperate, with the region divided into two parts: north and south. Finding food and fuel continues to be very difficult in the north, where exorbitant prices make life even harder. “Five gallons of diesel, for example, cost $215, and only provide two hours’ worth of energy for the generators,” George Akroush, director of the Project Development Office for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told ACN.

But despite these difficulties, one priest and seven women religious are working to support the Christians who found refuge in the Catholic parish of the Holy Family. At one point, 700 people were in its compound, which belongs to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, but that number has decreased due to migration and death. At present, there are 560 people, including both Catholic and Orthodox Christians, 140 children under the age of 18 (60 with disabilities), and 84 people over the age of 65.


According to Akroush, 30 Christians have died since the conflict began. Among them are the 17 victims of an attack on a Greek Orthodox parish compound in October of 2023, as well as the two women killed by snipers in the Catholic parish of the Holy Family. Another 11 people died from chronic illness that could not be adequately treated.


Hani Abu Daoud, a 48-year-old man who needed regular dialysis, was one of the 11. When the northern hospitals stopped functioning, he moved south, searching for treatment. But because of an increase in attacks, the hospitals in southern Gaza were also unable to provide treatment, and Hani died alone, far from his wife and children. He was not allowed to return and say goodbye to his family. He was buried in the south, where there is no clergy or Christian cemetery.


And a lack of fuel and electricity means that pumps no longer work, and the residents must manually extract water from the wells. “Hygiene has become a serious issue, especially for the children, who are falling ill because of a lack of water and basic supplies, like flour and diapers,” said Akroush. Medical care has also reached critical levels: another ten people are at risk of dying due to inadequate treatment. And, Akroush added, communication is challenging because it is hard to charge mobile phones. Nonetheless, Pope Francis keeps in near-daily contact with the priest and sisters who care for the refugees.


Residents with a second nationality have opted to leave the Gaza Strip, seeking safety in countries like Egypt, Canada, and Jordan.  They resisted leaving at first, but the situation over the past four months has forced many people to go.


The situation in the north is very tense since it has come under full control of the Israeli military. Displaced Christians can leave the compound, but they must be cautious, as things can escalate at any minute. “Any suspicious or dangerous movement might be your last. After four months under siege, the people are tired, and many are sick,” Akroush said.


With the help of organizations like ACN, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is able to provide medicine and food and fund some medical procedures. The Patriarchate is also paying the salaries of schoolteachers and people who work for religious institutions, allowing them to support their families.


For ACN’s project partner, the mass destruction of houses and infrastructure makes the future of Christians in the region highly uncertain. “They say that 62 percent of houses have been destroyed, and that reconstruction will last until 2093, according to some international and UN agencies active on the ground. With all this, one must ask: what future is there for Christians in this country? What is going to happen? Nobody knows. Please pray for us, and do not forget the suffering of Christians in this part of the world.”