GAZA: “This is a very special Easter, we are closer than ever to the crucified Saviour”

The Christian community in Gaza is facing the most difficult period since the beginning of the war.

Phone lines are cut, and online connections are continuously breaking. One can hardly understand what Sister Nabila is trying to say: “quite”, “well”, “Church”… then the line goes dead, and that is how things have been for the past few weeks. Only a few written messages arrive from time to time: “We are fine.” But when you press further you realise that “fine” means “we are alive”, because the situation is distressing: “We don’t have enough, we lack everything.”  But hope and gratitude are always present: “What little we do have is due to God’s grace. The people outside are suffering even more than we are because they don’t have that comfort at the moment.”

Gaza, destruction after bombing
Destruction after bombing in Gaza, December 2023.

The Christian community in Gaza is going through the worst period since the outbreak of the war. Another Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) project partner, whose phone line is stable, but who the charity prefers to keep anonymous for fear of reprisals, says: “Our people are constantly suffering. Every time both sides talk about a truce, the intensity of military operations increases.” For the past two weeks the Al Zeyton neighbourhood, where the Holy Family parish is located, has suffered intense military clashes and shelling. According to ACN reports, the parish compound is currently hosting 128 families – a total of 512 Christians – Catholic and Orthodox, including 120 children under 18, among them 60 with disabilities, and 84 people over 65.

Food supplies are very, very limited and “the problem has nothing to do with the availability of cash”, explains the same source, “it is simply that food is scarce, and it is difficult to find anywhere to buy it.  The Christian community takes every possible opportunity to secure some clean water and food,” he confirms.

Holy Communion at Holy Family Parish in Gaza.
Holy Communion at Holy Family Parish in Gaza.

With the help of ACN, among other organisations, the Latin Patriarchate is able to provide per person two meals a week and a loaf of bread every two days. But on other days, the community has to survive by managing their supplies, or try to find food in other ways. “People walk for long hours to get a small box of food, which in the end is not even enough for three people. In this forced diet, sharing is becoming part of daily life and their new Christian identity,” the source tells ACN.

Clean water is one of the most serious challenges at the moment. “We have dirty water for toilets and sanitary units, and water is being purified using traditional methods.” Another serious problem is sanitation. As a result of the shortages, many people have lost weight. “Children are suffering from a virus that causes nausea and diarrhoea and four of the elderly are facing serious illnesses and would require immediate hospitalisation. This is impossible at the moment.”

Holy Mass being celebrated at the Holy Family Parish in Gaza.
Holy Mass being celebrated at the Holy Family Parish in Gaza.

However, faith is something that encourages the small community, says the project partner. Besides the celebration of daily Mass, catechesis sessions and the recitation of the rosary, the parish organises activities for children and meetings for trauma healing through prayer. The staff of the Catholic centre of Thomas Aquinas, which moved into the parish compound after its building was bombed, is also involved in these activities.

The priest and the nuns, like Sister Nabila, who look after the people are doing heroic work. “They are all exhausted, no one can really experience what they are going through. With God’s grace, our children are now even closer to their faith than ever before. It is a very special Easter, we are closer than ever to the crucified Saviour,” the project partner concludes.

Even though it is very difficult to get through to Sister Nabila, there is one thing she always tells ACN to ask people: “Pray for us, pray for the whole population, that this war might end.”

 

By Maria Lozano.

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