A Baptist pastor—the pastor of the only Protestant church in the Gaza Strip—has spoken about the plight of Palestinian Christians and others in the wake of the recent attacks.
Hanna Massad, pastor of Gaza Baptist Church, expressed his concern for Palestinian Christians as conflict between Hamas and Israel continues in Gaza.
“The situation is the worse since 1967 war & it’s hard to express in words what is going on,” wrote Massad in an e-mail to EthicsDaily.com. “The innocent people of Gaza pay the price.”
Massad has been on sabbatical in the United States, where he has been preaching to raise awareness and support for Palestinian Christians. He gave his testimony at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta last year.
In his e-mail, Massad shared updates he has received from Gaza. The Gaza Baptist Church was damaged by an Israeli bomb targeting a police station across the street. According to reports, the bombing killed about 40 people and shattered the windows of the church building.
“The church continue to meet but at this difficult time it will [be] very dangerous to meet,” Massad wrote.
Although some reports suggested that the church had been destroyed, Baptist leaders with contacts in the region have learned otherwise.
Bader Mansour, executive director of the Association of Baptist Churches of Israel, told EthicsDaily.com that only windows were broken at the church. Additionally, Tony Peck, general secretary of the European Baptist Federation, which includes churches in the Middle East, told EthicsDaily.com that he had spoken with a Palestinian Baptist leader who confirmed that the church was not destroyed.
Over the past several years, the church has been damaged multiple times by bombs. Additionally, the church was forcibly seized for several days by Palestinian police. The Gaza Bible Society, which Massad’s wife directed, was twice bombed. In 2007, a member of the church, who ran Gaza’s only Christian bookstore, was kidnapped and killed.
“Several times the inside ceiling of our church [has] been collapsed,” Massad said at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. “What do you do as a pastor when come Sunday morning and you try to open the church door and the sanctuary and you find the inside ceiling of your church is completely collapsed and you’re not able to enter in?”
“It’s very difficult, you know, to go through this kind of circumstances,” Massad added as he talked about the murder of his church member. “But God has been helping us to overcome this challenges and these difficulties we go through.”
Massad also shared in his recent e-mail that a teenage Christian girl in Gaza died from a medical condition sparked by her fear during the recent Israeli airstrikes.
According to CNN, the first 10 days of the conflict have resulted in more than 500 Palestinian deaths, including that of about 100 women and children. The death toll represents more than 100 Palestinians for every Israeli killed by recent Hamas rocket attacks. Additionally, Israel’s attacks have injured more than 2,500 Palestinians, most of whom have been civilians.
A spokesman for a U.N. aid agency for the Palestinians told the BBC: “One million people are without electricity. Crucially the hospitals in Gaza are running on emergency generators. This in my book amounts to a humanitarian crisis.”
In his e-mail, Massad described the current conflict in Gaza as “the symptom of the problem between Israel & the Palestinian” with “the root of the problem” being “the occupation” and Israel trying “to control our lives as Palestinians.”
Massad also requested prayer, noting that he and his family hope to return to Gaza next summer, but that his wife needs a visa to enter Israel and then Gaza. At the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, Massad said Israel had denied a visa to his wife in the past, resulting in their family being separated for several months.
“Please pray for safety for the people in Gaza & for the Christian community & the church,” Massad wrote. “People without electricity for many hours & difficulty of getting water. Thank you very much for your care & your prayers.”
Mansour echoed Massad’s call for prayer.
“Please pray for a good outcome to this conflict,” said Mansour in an e-mail to EthicsDaily.com. “For justice to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, so they may have a state of their own where they can live freely. Pray for the Israelis to accept this and have security in knowing that only by granting the Palestinians the right for self determination.”
“Pray for peace in the Middle East,” he continued. “For the peoples of this region to understand that ‘eye for an eye’ and revenge will just lead to more hatred and endless conflict. May God raise Godly leaders in the Middle East, so they can lead their nations in new ways of reconciliation—for a better future for the next generation.”
Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor to EthicsDaily.com.