HOLY LAND: Christian homes and Catholic school among buildings destroyed

The Rosary Sisters School in Gaza after bombing.
The Rosary Sisters School in Gaza after bombing.

More than 50 Christian family homes and a Christian school have been destroyed, and other Christian buildings have been badly damaged by airstrikes in Gaza, according to a charity’s project partner.

One of the buildings destroyed has been the Rosary Sisters School. The school had 1,250 students, both Christian and Muslim, and was one of the largest institutions in Gaza educating poor communities.

Sister Nabila Saleh of the Rosary Sisters, the principal of the school, told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that she received the tragic news of the school having been hit on Saturday 4th November.

Sister Saleh said: “I am heartbroken. Everything is ruined. It is very sad.”

 She added that the school’s internal structure and a large outdoor playground were damaged. One of the school buildings collapsed.

ACN had approved an aid project for the school, which can no longer go ahead because of the destruction.

The Sisters had evacuated the school before the war and have been residing in the parish of the Holy Family, also in Gaza City.

Sister Saleh said: “Some of the students are here with us, and as far as we know nobody was killed, thank God.”

The Sisters are caring for 750 displaced Christians – including 100 children and 70 people with special needs – in the parish with other religious Sisters and a priest.

The Orthodox Cultural Centre also sustained damage. An ACN project partner in Gaza said: “The centre, which was built after 12 years of hard work, was totally destroyed.”

The source, who asked to remain anonymous, added that there were fears that the St Thomas Aquinas Centre, also in Gaza, may have been damaged by airstrikes, but it was “too dangerous to go and check on it at the moment”.

According to a statement released by the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, 19 places of worship, including mosques and churches, were attacked in Gaza during the first three weeks of the devastating conflict.

The statement said: “In times of crisis and adversity, we turn to the words of Psalms 34:18, which remind us that ‘the Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit’.

“We pray for peace, justice, and a swift end to the suffering in Gaza.”

Despite the order for all civilians in Gaza City to evacuate to the south of the strip, Sister Nabila stressed her decision to remain with the community in the parish until the end.

She said it would be logistically impossible to move the elderly, children, sick and those with disabilities.

She explained: “We will not go and leave our people. We are here to accompany them, we cannot possibly abandon them.”

Most Christians in Gaza are sheltering at the Holy Family Church and the Orthodox Church of St Porphyrius, and only have enough supplies for just over a week, according to ACN’s source.

The source added: “The fighting is coming closer and closer.

But without a humanitarian truce there can be no evacuation because people are very scared; they are hearing about bombing in other areas in the Gaza Strip.

“Moreover, famine and lack of water and shelter are terrible in these other areas as well.”