BosNewsLife - Christian News Agency

Embattled Christians In Gaza Open Library Amid Violence

Wednesday, November 22, 2006 (6:33 pm)

Gospel, making Christian books available in this region's only Christian public library.

Israel's security cabinet said it was forced to react to a wave of Palestinian rocket attacks against Israeli towns in recent days.

Tanks and armored vehicles reportedly rolled into northern Gaza, joining Israeli forces already there. Israeli soldiers killed two gunmen from the governing Hamas movement in clashes, Reuters news agency quoted Palestinian hospital officials as saying. 

The move was expected to add to anxiety within the area's tiny Christian minority and the local Gaza Baptist Church  which opened the Christian public library in Gaza, the largest city in the Gaza Strip.

The building, partly damaged by bullet holes of previous fighting, was opened as an attempt "to witness" [the love of Jesus Christ] in that hostile environment," said Open Doors, a Christian rights group supporting the project.  

Last May when the library construction was still in process, the guard of the property was reportedly shot in crossfire. "Almost every floor of the building was damaged by gunfire when warring Islamic parties entrenched themselves in and near to the building," Open Doors recalled.

DIFFERENT BOOKS

Despite the ongoing strife, Christian and non-Christian books can be borrowed from the large collection on the first two floors of the building.  

Open Doors’ Dutch founder Anne van der Bijl, better known as Brother Andrew, said he was pleased with "the ministry" of the Gaza Baptist Church, "the only evangelical church" among 1.5 million Palestinians located in the Gaza Strip.

“It’s great to take care of the Body [of Christ, the Church]...by giving them good books." However he cautioned: "It is even better to take care of their souls and spread the Gospel of Jesus...to show...Jesus.”

About 250 people attended the opening of the library on November 12, including some 30 international guests involved with the Christian community in Gaza, Open Doors said in a statement to BosNewsLife.

INTERNATIONAL QUESTS

Several international guests had to wait until the last moment to receive permission to enter Gaza as their permits were apparently only valid if officials considered it safe enough for them to cross the checkpoints. 

Besides a library, the six-story building also houses a community health care facility for women, including a mammography machine to assist with breast cancer research, Open Doors said. The machine on the third floor is the only  of its kind available to the people in Gaza.

The fourth floor will be used "for outreach", and several activities are being developed by the Baptist ministry. The fifth floor is designed as a guesthouse, "so that the Baptist Church can host workers from other cities or abroad," Open Doors explained. The sixth floor was to be used as the church’s worship hall, "until the opportunity comes to build a church building."

Open Doors "hopes and prays that this new building may be a blessing for the Church in Gaza and through them, to the Palestinian community," the group added.

BAPTISTS 50 YEARS

The Baptist Church has been operating in Gaza for over 50 years and started its first library in 1968 with just 200 books, church members say. Local Christians say the church is in "an awkward situation" in Gaza, as it experiences daily pressure and uncertainty.

Besides violence, Christians also live and work amid kidnappings of both Christian and non Christian aid workers and journalists. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday, November 22, it has no intention of leaving Gaza following the kidnapping of two Italian employees.

It coincided with the return to Jerusalem of Italian aid workers, Claudio Moroni, 36, and Gianmarco Onorato, 63, after being abducted for several hours on Tuesday, November 21. (With BosNewsLife Research, BosNewsLife reports and other reports from the region).

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