Life is like living in a Prison for Gaza Christians
In Gaza, if you are a Christian, life is like living in a prison. The reason is simple – it’s just for being a Christian.
The reality that Gaza is a kind of prison was clear as Open Doors visitors entered the Gaza strip from Israel. “Even as a visitor, I got the impression I was entering a prisoner camp. The security measures are strict and I had to walk for one kilometer through a cage-like corridor in no-man’s land to get to the final border checks with the Palestinian Authority,” reported one observer.
Young Palestinian Christians have an especially hard life in Gaza where they are literally imprisoned. Until they reach 35 years old, Israel will usually not allow them to cross the border. Also if a Christian girl wants to go to university, she has to agree to dress in accordance with Islamic requirements. “When you don’t use the headscarf, you attract attention,” one of the young women said. “Hamas doesn’t like Christians.”
Even in the midst of these pressures, believers are finding ways to share their faith. One day, a young Christian man met someone who asked a lot of questions about being a Christian. The other man expressed the widespread Muslim conviction that the Bible is a corrupted book. The Christian had a good conversation about this with the seeker. The man then went to a sheikh and asked what he thought about the Bible. “Later he came back,” the Christian said, “and asked me, ‘Do you have the Book?’ He wanted to have a Bible, so I gave him one.”
Such conversations are often fraught with danger for believers who feel that people who question them are setting a trap to accuse them of trying to convert a Muslim to Christianity. They need a lot of discernment to know what to say and when to speak. Despite the challenges, Christian youth are involved in Christian ministry.
The situation in Gaza has worsened in recent years. Gradually things are changing since Hamas took over from Fatah in 2006. The Christians had a better life when Fatah was in power.
“Living in Gaza is like living in a prison,” one of the Christians said. “It is like living with handcuffs on your hands. We can’t leave Gaza; only a small number of people are allowed to travel out.” Many Christians have migrated to safer places. Several families fled after the killing of Rami Ayyad, manager of the Christian bookshop in Gaza, in 2007.There were about 2,500 five years ago in Gaza but the number has significantly reduced.
“Recently a friend of ours received a permission from Israel to travel to the West Bank for a family visit,” a young man shared. “We were happy for him, but it also made us sad, because we also would like to see and meet our families and friends who don’t live in Gaza anymore. We also want to live outside Gaza. There we can have a better and simple life, we can have better education. There will be no shooting, no rumors of war. Here in Gaza you see all the time bad things happen.”
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