By Suhali Lawand
As the fighting between Hamas and the Israeli army continues in the Holy Land, the Catholic Church in Gaza is doing everything in its power to alleviate the burden of war on its affected members.
The bloodshed and displacement have not spared the civilians in Gaza, who have borne the brunt of the raging war in a region that has not known safety and stability for about 75 years.
In an exclusive conversation with ACI MENA, CNA’s Arabic-language news partner, Nisreen Antoun, Holy Family parish’s project manager, revealed that there are 20 homes of Christian civilians that were completely destroyed as a result of Israeli bombing as well as homes that were partially damaged.
Holy Family Church is the only Roman Catholic parish in the Gaza Strip and is located in the northern part of Gaza City. Israel’s military had ordered the Palestinian civilians to evacuate south last week, but the church today still has several hundred people taking refuge in its buildings.
Antoun said the number of Christian refugees coming to the church to date is estimated to be approximately 500 people in addition to others residing in the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Porphyrius.
Antoun described what the church is providing for the displaced families.
“We opened the halls and rooms in the church and school,” he said. “We supplied the displaced with mattresses, pillows, and covers. We also provide them water, food, and personal hygiene items.”
Antoun also pointed out several difficulties the church is facing.
“We suffer from power outages, with difficulty securing diesel for the power generator,” he said. “In addition to difficulty in bathing, as water is almost cut off and the number of people we have is large. Also, the mattresses are not enough for everyone to sleep. Additionally, we have a problem related to food supplies, as it is not easy to find them, especially bread. Currently, only four bakeries are operating in Gaza, and some medicines have become missing from pharmacies.”
Antoun continued: “The city of Gaza has been completely destroyed; however, no Christian has been martyred to this hour. The church is also unharmed and has not been subjected to any damage, but no one knows what will happen in the coming days.”
Despite the siege and the harshness of war, the church continues to open its doors to worshippers daily, fulfilling its spiritual duties toward them. Amid the images of sorrow and death, the church witnessed joy and a new spiritual birth last Sunday during the baptism of baby Daniel Alaa Shaheen.
In the evenings, believers recite prayers by candlelight due to the power outages.