While we were celebrating Christmas in the United States, Palestinian Christians couldn’t join in the festivities because they were grappling with the fear of extinction. The Palestinian Christian community in Gaza is deeply worried about what lies ahead for them as they confront the constant threat of extermination during the ongoing conflict with Israel, which commenced on October 7th. The Israeli military has carried out intense air strikes and ground operations, leading to a devastating death toll of nearly 19,000 Palestinians, with a significant number being children and women, over the past three months..
In an article written by Nadda Osman, she explains that the conflict has left Gaza in ruins, with residential towers, places of worship, and schools being razed by Israeli air strikes. Furthermore, Israel has severed essential supplies such as fuel, water, food, and electricity to the besieged strip since October 9th. The war erupted after an attack led by Hamas on Israel, resulting in the tragic deaths of over 1,200 people.
She explains in her article that the Palestinian Christian community in Gaza, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. The Palestinian Christian community in Gaza, which has a long history as one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, is currently at risk of disappearing. Reports indicate that before the start of the Israeli siege and blockade in Gaza in 2007, approximately 3,000 Christians were living in the region. However, as a result of the harsh living conditions imposed by the blockade and the recent conflict on October 7th, the Christian population has dwindled significantly to just 800, with the number of casualties increasing every day.
Many Palestinian Christians have sought refuge in churches throughout the constant bombardment, including the historic St. Porphyrius church, which tragically suffered an air strike on October 19th. The relentless attacks have forced Christians to evacuate their homes and seek shelter in these places of worship.
As the world observes, many Christian pastors in the United States remain silent about the situation, while some misinformed Black pastors are openly supporting Israel’s actions that contribute to the persecution of one of the world’s oldest Christian communities.
When Black Pastors, who are descendants of slavery, downplay or ignore the oppression of other people, particularly fellow Christians, due to concerns about U.S. political correctness, it raises a question: Are we deviating from Jesus’ teachings to speak out against the mistreatment of fellow Christians who have no ties to Hamas and are facing potential extinction due to the continuous bombardment by Israeli weapons funded by the U.S.?
Osman writes that Hammam Farah, a Palestinian Christian living in Canada who has lost several relatives in the current bombing campaign, expressed his distress, calling it Israel’s “genocidal campaign.” He recounted the tragic collapse of the St. Porphyrius church’s ceiling, which claimed the lives of 18 people, including his cousin Soliman. His cousin’s wife was seriously injured in the incident, leaving their two young children to witness their father’s tragic death.
The violence hasn’t spared even the elderly, as Farah’s great aunt, renowned music teacher Elham Farah, aged 84, was shot by an Israeli soldier as she attempted to leave the church to check on her home, leading to her untimely demise.
The constant attacks on churches have left the Palestinian Christian community deeply worried and anxious, with tanks firing on a convent that was sheltering 54 people with disabilities, damaging essential equipment and supplies.
Ryan al-Natour, a Palestinian Christian from Australia, emphasized that the ongoing attacks aim to erase all Palestinians from Gaza and have a dire impact on the Christian community there. He criticized Israel’s claims of being the “savior” of Christians in Gaza while carrying out actions that threaten their very existence.
Recent events, such as the cancellation of Christmas lights in Bethlehem, festive parades in Jerusalem, and celebrations in Jordan due to Israel’s bombing of Gaza, have further heightened concerns. Many diaspora Palestinians have chosen not to celebrate this year, deeming it inappropriate in light of the ongoing crisis.
Israeli officials’ and politicians’ comments about the existence of Christians in Gaza have also raised alarm. An Israeli politician’s claim that “there are no Christians in Gaza” has sparked anger and frustration among the community.
Sally Dabeet-Asfour, a diaspora Palestinian Christian with family in Gaza, highlighted that all Christians in Gaza are now concentrated in two churches, not only seeking shelter from the bombings but also striving to protect their places of worship. She stressed the significance of Christians’ historical presence in Gaza and the real threat posed to their existence and their churches.
The Palestinian Christian community holds a special attachment to their land as it is the birthplace of their faith and home to numerous significant Christian sites. Gaza boasts several important religious locations, including the Saint Porphyrius Church and the Tell Umm Amer monastery, dating back centuries.
Despite historical challenges, many Palestinians describe peaceful coexistence between Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the region, and they view claims of persecution as divisive tactics. They stress that it is the Israeli occupation that has had a devastating impact on the community, isolating them from larger Christian communities and causing the destruction of their land and resources.
In conclusion, the Palestinian Christian community in Gaza faces an existential threat amid the ongoing conflict with Israel. Their historical presence and significance in the region are at risk, and their plea for protection and recognition remains a critical concern amid this devastating conflict.
America, often called a Christian nation founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ, once again finds itself in a disturbing contradiction. The plight of Christians living in Gaza, subjected to oppression solely due to their skin color, exposes a glaring hypocrisy within our Christian beliefs here in America. As a Black man, I am deeply disappointed by the silence of Black leadership, descendants of those who endured similar horrific oppression, while our fellow Christians in Gaza face a dire situation. The urgency of this matter cannot be overstated, and it calls for immediate attention and action.