The emotional, spiritual toll of war in Gaza

(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)

(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)

Gaza (MNN/BGR) — A 72-hour ceasefire ended after less than three hours in the Israel-Gaza conflict. This could be a headline from the weekend, or it could be the headline from five years ago, which begs the question: has nothing changed?

In 2009, a Christian worker recorded an interview with the Baptist Press about the conflict in Gaza and how it affects people on both sides. Politics and alliances may have changed, but the impact feels the same. Five years later, this recorded statement, “Terrorism is the enemy, not the people,” is haunting because nothing seems to have improved despite massive global diplomatic efforts.

Believers in both Israel and Gaza prayed that love would win out and all people would see “the Great Light that shines in the darkness,” the worker said in the 2009 interview. That holds true today, too.

Jeff Palmer, executive director for Baptist Global Response, says, “It’s just a bad situation, anyway you look at it, because there are so many innocent folks suffering on both sides. Pray for peace, that there could be some healing and restoration and access to those who are suffering–who, at this time, are very open to help, and they’re very open to the message of hope that we have to bring them.”

(Photo courtesy International Mission Board)

(Photo courtesy International Mission Board)

The long history of conflict between Gaza and Israel has been marked in recent years by militants in Gaza firing hundreds of rockets into Israeli populations, triggering severe retaliation by Israel. The situation is unpredictable, but despite the violence, Southern Baptist representatives continue ministering where they are with a surprising calm. Palmer says, “Usually in a war area, in a crisis area, you have refugees. But here, they don’t have anywhere to go. They’re kind of stuck in this small strip of land, and they are where they are. It’s affecting lots of people.”

In Gaza with the current fighting, it’s dangerous to be in the street, and there’s little movement outside. Grocery stores are empty. There’s no electricity. BGR partners are anxious to feed 1000 families in the Gaza Strip, he adds. “We’ve approved some materials and funds to be released to help. Like many organizations, we’re really having trouble right now even getting to those areas to help the needy people.”

BGR still plans to help with a food distribution program in Gaza once the hostilities end. Palmer explains, “It empowers local believers to show compassion and to be able to have relationship and have a reason to have a relationship with folks who are their neighbors who are suffering, and share the Gospel.”

(Photo courtesy International Mission Board/Baptist Press)

(Photo courtesy International Mission Board/Baptist Press)

Palmer adds, “Pray for wisdom and knowledge for our BGR partners who are looking at how to get the materials and supplies into the hands of our national partners to be able to help.”

Pray for Israelis, Palestinians, Hamas, terrorists, the innocent and the guilty, everyone involved in the violence and bloodshed taking place in the Middle East.