HOLY LAND: ‘We are closer than ever to the crucified Saviour’

Mass at the Holy Family Church in Gaza City. (© Holy Family Parish, Gaza)
Mass at the Holy Family Church in Gaza City. (© Holy Family Parish, Gaza)

Gaza’s Christian community is facing the most difficult time since the outbreak of the war but remain encouraged by their faith, according to local sources.  

There is a critical shortage of food and clean water, a source in Gaza who wished not to be named told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

ACN’s source said: “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.”

With the help of ACN (International) and other organisations, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is able to provide two full meals a week and a loaf of bread every two days for each Christian in Gaza.

The source said that access to clean water is one of the greatest challenges, explaining: “We have dirty water for toilets and sanitary units, and water is being purified using traditional methods.”

He added that many people have lost weight, and illness is common because of the lack of adequate sanitation.

He highlighted: “Children are suffering from a virus that causes nausea and diarrhoea – and [some] of the elderly are facing serious illnesses and would require immediate hospitalisation. This is impossible at the moment.”

Last month ACN reported that, out of about 1,000 Christians remaining in Gaza, 30 have lost their lives because of the conflict – 19 have been killed by military action and 11 have died due to a lack of medical care.

A priest and seven religious Sisters are looking after 512 Christians – including 120 children and 84 people over 65 – sheltering at the Holy Family Parish, Gaza’s only Catholic church.

For the past two weeks, the area around the church has suffered intense military clashes and shelling.

The faithful taking refuge at the parish have daily Mass, pray the Rosary together and are given catechesis (education on Catholicism), according to ACN’s source.

The parish also organises activities for children and meetings for trauma healing through prayer, with help from the staff of the St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Centre, which moved to the Holy Family compound after its building was bombed.

The local source said that those sheltering at the church “are all exhausted – no one can really experience what they are going through”.

He added: “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.”

Sister Nabila Saleh of the Rosary Sisters – one of the Sisters staying at the Holy Family Church – requested prayers for peace.

She said: “Pray for us, pray for the whole population, that this war might end.”

ACN has provided emergency aid – food coupons, life-saving medicine and help with housing costs and tuition fees – for 3,448 Christians in the Holy Land who have lost their livelihoods.

ACN’s UK office is only able to contribute to the support in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The UK government’s counter-terrorism sanctions make it impossible for ACN (UK) to transfer funds into Gaza but vital aid is getting through via the charity’s other national offices.


With thanks to Maria Lozano