Supporting Christians in Gaza and the West Bank

5.26.2024

 

Our televisions, newsfeeds and conversations are full of talk about Israel and Gaza- the Jews and Muslims- right now—but what about Christians living on those areas?  They are facing extreme persecution— from lack of employment, funds and food, to outright attacks on churches and Christian families.  They are caught in the middle of a war which has nothing to do with them yet affects every aspect of their life.  With borders closed and cities under attack, they are also the only ones in this area able to share the Gospel with Muslims and Jews.

 

 

The Plight of Christians in Gaza

Gaza has been marred by conflict and instability for many years. Amidst the chaos, the Christian community in this region has faced significant struggles, leading to a steady decline in their population over the years.

At one point in history, there were over 10,000 Christians in Gaza during the first intifada (uprising) in 1985. However, due to various factors, including political unrest and religious persecution, the number of Christians steadily declined over the years.

The safety and well-being of Christians in Gaza have been under constant threat. Tragically, acts of violence and persecution targeting Christians have forced many to leave their homes and seek refuge elsewhere. In 2007, Hamas killed a young man who worked at the Bible Society due to his beliefs, instilling fear among other workers. This led to the departure of more than 12 families associated with the Bible Society, some finding solace in Bethlehem and others seeking asylum abroad, particularly in the United States.

 

(AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Today, less than 1,000 Christians remain in Gaza, primarily staying within the two churches, the Catholic and Orthodox church.  They live under the sounds of bombings, in church halls with a few hundred other people, with nothing to do except distribute food and water, organize shower and bathroom schedules, and wash clothes by hand.

No one is as close to our Christian brothers and sisters in Gaza as those living in Bethlehem. Voice of Christians has been able to connect with our local network in Israel to provide much-needed aid and support to the remaining Christian community in these regions. Donations from churches and individuals have helped purchase essentials such as clothing, mattresses, pillows, and food. These contributions aim to alleviate immediate needs and create an environment of care, reminding the Christian community that they are not forgotten and that there is hope.

 

Challenges Faced by Christians in the West Bank

While the situation in the West Bank may differ slightly from that of Gaza, Christians living in this area also confront significant challenges. Particularly in Bethlehem, home to the largest Christian population in the area, economic hardship poses severe obstacles to daily life.

Bethlehem holds great significance for Christians around the world as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Despite its spiritual prominence, the local Christian population faces dire circumstances. With approximately 47,000 Christians residing among a larger population of 3 million people in the West Bank, most of them struggle to make ends meet.  The population is declining as persecution to Christians increases there.

Unemployment rates, worsened by the ongoing conflicts, have left many families without work or reliable income sources. As a result, meeting basic needs becomes increasingly challenging. Rent payments, utility bills for water and electricity, and medical expenses become insurmountable hurdles. Some families find themselves burdened by mounting debts, further exacerbating their already precarious situations.

Recognizing the urgent need to support struggling families, VoC has launched numerous initiatives to offer practical assistance and alleviate financial strain. We are partnering with those in our network to provide funds and resources to help cover essential expenses such as rent, bills, and medical costs.

   The dire needs in Gaza and the West Bank are overwhelming, but one couple’s dedication is making a real impact.

 

Siham Ar and his wife Jeries are missionaries in the Middle East and are in the VoC network. Previously from Bethlehem, they had left the area after the war began and were serving in Turkey, Jordan, and other countries.  They have now returned to Bethlehem to visit their children and grandchildren and to help pray for and assist other Christians there.  They are aware firsthand of many needs for simple things like clothes and underwear for children, mattresses, pillows, and of course food.  They are also able to connect with Christians in Gaza and are aware of many dire needs there.

 

“Bethlehem is like a prison and no one can leave the city,” says Siham. Here’s what that means for local Christians.

 

Christians in both Gaza and the West Bank are longing for safety and a better future for themselves and their families.  Many are preparing to leave the country. “Bethlehem is like a prison and no one can leave the city”, said Siham. Imagine relying on tourism for your livelihood, only to see it vanish overnight. This is the struggle for Christians in Bethlehem.  As a persecuted part of society, the government and other families, offer them no help either.

In addition to helping believers, Siham and Jeries are sharing the gospel with Muslims in the area. Their sustained faith, amidst adversity, is shining a bright light in a very dark world.  The Muslims are asking questions, listening to the Bible readings, and offering for them to come back again. Praise God for this wonderful gift of sharing the gospel with the lost.

 

 

Please keep Siham, Jeries, and all of the Christians in the West Bank in your prayers.  Particularly their own family:  their children Elias and Matthew have lost their jobs since the war, and are facing financial problems. Their daughter, Magedoline, and her husband are refugees in Cyprus.  Yet, this couple continues to witness to and serve others as they trust God will provide the funds needed to sustain them and their families.

Your donations will help VoC continue to share the love of Jesus and tangible support with our persecuted brothers and sisters when they need it most.   We will continue to support Siham and Jeries and the work they are doing and we hope to grow our presence in this area to allow Christians a larger network and the resources they need to continue living there.

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