GAZA CITY, GAZA – In the Gaza Strip, a recent incident has intensified concerns among the Christian community about their future in the region. Two Christian women, Nahida and her daughter Samar, were reportedly shot dead inside the Holy Family Parish in Gaza City. This tragic event occurred amidst the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, raising fears of the Christian community’s survival in the war-torn area.
Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian Lutheran leader from Bethlehem, expressed deep concern about the incident, fearing that the Christian community in Gaza might not withstand such atrocities. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem accused an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) sniper of the killings, stating that the women were shot “in cold blood” within the church premises, a designated refuge for many Christian families since the war’s onset.
The incident at the Holy Family Parish was not an isolated event. The Latin Patriarchate also reported that the Convent of the Sisters of Mother Theresa (Missionaries of Charity) was struck by an IDF tank rocket. This attack destroyed the building’s generator and fuel resources, leaving 54 disabled residents without essential services, including respirators for some. The patriarchate emphasized that these locations were marked as places of worship and should have been exempt from military actions.
The Christian population in Gaza, estimated at around 1,000 before the conflict, is predominantly Greek Orthodox, with others identifying as Roman Catholic, Baptist, and other denominations. Most have sought shelter in churches like the St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church and the Catholic Holy Family Church, hoping to find safety amidst the chaos.
Israel’s Prime Minister’s office and the IDF have denied the allegations regarding the incident at the Holy Family Parish. The IDF stated that their review of operational findings did not support the claims of a hit on the church or civilian casualties. They emphasized their commitment to avoiding harm to sensitive sites, especially churches, and reiterated that their military actions target terrorists and terror infrastructure, not civilians.
Despite these denials, the Christian community in Gaza and their leaders remain skeptical and deeply affected. Rev. Munther Isaac, pastor of the Christmas Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, expressed disbelief in the Israeli officials’ statements, citing eyewitness accounts of the shooting at the church. He referenced a recent incident where the IDF mistakenly killed three Israeli hostages, suggesting a pattern of indiscriminate targeting.
The recent events have not only caused immediate harm and loss but also raised serious concerns about the long-term viability of the Christian community in Gaza. The damage to religious sites and the loss of life have left many wondering about their future in a region where they have been an integral part of the social fabric for centuries. The international community and religious leaders worldwide are closely monitoring the situation, hoping for a resolution that ensures the safety and preservation of this vulnerable community in Gaza.