Church bells silenced in Gaza

Gaza (MNN) — Church bells have been silenced at a small Baptist church in Gaza. Since the region has turned into a war zone over the past few weeks, the small Baptist community is no longer holding church services.

Hanna Maher is the pastor of the Baptist church in Gaza City. Because of the insecurity, he is not able to visit all members of the church. He stays in touch by phone with the families he cannot visit.

An Open Doors contact shares: “Last weekend, we had a phone call with Pastor Hanna. We considered having a church service in our church on Sunday during the time of a ceasefire. But since it became very clear that the ceasefire was not being kept, we decided it was irresponsible to meet together in the church.”

The Open Doors country coordinator for Israel and Palestinian area explains: “The Baptist church and the library of the church are right across the street from a police station. That police station has been attacked several times, so it is a potentially dangerous area. The authorities also requested to have the library closed for the time being.”

To encourage each other, the members of the church stay in touch with each other through telephone–if the lines are working–and also through organizing house meetings.

For some Christians, the threat is coming closer. One family was instructed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to temporarily leave their apartment building since they were preparing an attack on a house nearby. And, although attacks by the IDF are often very precise, sometimes mistakes are made. Last Sunday, such an inaccuracy took the life of a Greek Orthodox Christian woman, Jalila Ayyad, who was in her 60s.

Because of the war, many people have lost their homes or cannot return to their houses for the time being. “If one house in an apartment building is damaged because of an attack, then often the whole apartment building is closed for fear of collapsing,” says a Gaza believer.

“Over 160,000 people have no houses these days. Many of them come to Gaza City to live with relatives. We see the difference and that it is even more crowded than before. This is a big burden for the families living here, but we do what we can to help. If it is necessary, then we welcome relatives who need help.”

Apart from the Baptist church, the only two other active churches in all the Gaza Strip are the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Both churches have welcomed refugees from areas in Gaza that have taken heavy incoming artillery fire. Among the 1.7 million Muslims, there are approximately 1,500-2,000 Christians.