By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
GAZA/JERUSALEM (BosNewsLife)– Palestinian Christians in Israel and across the border in Gaza were facing more difficulties Sunday, August 31, after being forced out of a church in Jerusalem, while in Gaza they were among those rebuilding their lives after weeks of death and destruction.
Pastor Steven Khoury said after seven years of threats and and attacks by hard-line Muslims he was forced out of his Palestinian Calvary Baptist Church in East Jerusalem.
The congregation, part of Holy Land Missions, moved out of their building in the Shofat area of Jerusalem in July after Islamists threatened their landlord, Christians said.
On Sunday, August 31, they were still searching for a safer and more permanent place to meet.
Pastor Steven Khoury linked the troubles to their decision to moved into the building in a predominantly Muslim area in 2007.
Across the border in Gaza, Christians were hoping that a recently agreed ceasefire between Hamas militants and Israel would hold, after the war left more than 2,200 people dead, most of them Palestinians, as well as scores of Israeli soldiers and several civilians.
Though Gaza’s tiny Christian minority inside Gaza has not been spared fatalities, it also offered shelter, food, education, and medical care to hundreds of Gazans.
Matthew McGarry, the country representative for Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) said residents are skeptical as to whether the cease-fire will last. He called the humanitarian situation as “dire” and “potentially catastrophic”.
Two months of conflict, McGarry added, have been “deeply traumatic” with many neighbourhoods literally “pulverized” by the Israeli bombing and shelling.
Israel has defended its actions, saying Hamas fired 3,000 rockets into Israel since January. Since the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8, the IDF completed at least 1,300 air strikes, and ground troops destroyed more than 30 cross-border tunnels.
Israel also accused Hamas of using people as human shields and said it warned residents
ahead of air strikes.
McGarry said CRS is involved in distributing emergency hygiene and kitchen kits to the Gazan population. He stressed that the the major “incredibly urgent” issue is ensuring the population has access to clean drinking water “because Gaza’s aquifer is contaminated and not fit to drink”.
Christians have also opened their doors to at least some of the estimated 500,000 internally displaced people.
Hanna Massad, former pastor of the Gaza Baptist Church, said he opened his home to as many as 100 people. “People throughout Gaza are taking care of each other,” he added in an interview with Christianity Today magazine.
It is also seen as an attempt by Christians to show the love of Christ to Muslims, including hardliners, who have been sceptical ab out Christian activities both in Gaza and Israel.
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(BosNewsLife (2004-2014) is the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians. It has been ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since May 2004).
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