The ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza has led to hundreds of deaths and thousands of people injured or homeless. Christians in the region share what they're witnessing and how their churches are responding.
News outlets around the world are reporting on the bombing of Al-Ahli Hospital on Tuesday 17 October, in which hundreds of people were killed. The exact number is not known, but an Open Doors contact in the region says it is more than 500 people. The hospital is the only Christian hospital in Gaza - one which Brother Andrew once visited. The bombing also damaged the nearby Baptist church, though nobody at that place was injured. The attack is not believed to have targeted the hospital because of its Christian affiliation.
Both Israelis and Palestinians have blamed the other side for the bombing - with Palestinian sources say the Israeli army is responsible, while the Israeli government denies this and says it is caused by a failed rocket launch of the organisation Islamic Jihad. Either way, hundreds of people were killed who were being treated at the hospital, or who were sheltering on its grounds because it was believed to be a safe place, with many more injured.
Most of the 1,000+ Christians in Gaza are finding refuge at churches in the city. Bishop Alexis yesterday wrote: “Until there is at least one Christian in the territory of Gaza, I won’t go anywhere, because I can be a hope for them, so I’ll stay in the province that believes in me. If I die I’ll have a decent death as my portion!"
An Open Doors contact in the region is in touch with Christians sheltering in churches. "Today, communication with them is very difficult as they don’t have any energy left, and the WiFi was very weak in the past days," he says. "They have enough food/water for two, three days."
Please pray for the many families who lost loved ones. Please pray that our brothers and sisters in the other churches will stay safe. Pray that civilians’ lives will no longer be endangered in the Palestinian Territories or in Israel.
In a separate incident, 18 Christians were killed in an explosion next to a Greek Orthodox church in Gaza city.
“The number of Christians killed in the latest bombing is rising by the minute," shared a church leader in the West Bank. "There's a lot of grief, sadness and hopelessness among the Christians in Gaza. They thought staying in the church was the better option. They all want to leave Gaza. But that will depend on if they can; I don’t know when and how they will leave.”
11th October 2023
The death toll continues to rise in both Israel and Gaza, and rocket attacks and bombing are ongoing. Civilians were victims in the first attack by Hamas and continue to be stuck in the midst of the violence.
For most of us, as we see the unfolding situation on the news and online, we should do what our founder Brother Andrew advised us to do: pray for what you see and hear in the news, and pray for those affected. So let’s keep praying for the people in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Pray that peace will come. Pray for the churches in Gaza and in Israel, that they will be strengthened to help and comfort those around them and show them the love of God.
The Hamas military offensive has led to thousands of deaths in Israel. The Bible Society in Israel expresses on its website the feelings of so many of their brothers and sisters in Israel: “We are in shock, angry, in mourning. In a few short hours, hundreds of lives were snuffed out: women, men, children, elderly. Several thousand were wounded, over a hundred were taken hostage. More than three thousand rockets were fired into the southern half of the country.
"More than ever, we need your prayers." Christian in Israel
“There is not a family in the country that has not lost a family member or a friend. More than ever, we need your prayers. Prayers for those who mourn. Prayers for God to use this tragic event to cause people to seek God about their own eternal destiny. And we at the Bible Society in Israel ask you to pray that God give us wisdom in these days.
“Wisdom how to comfort. Wisdom how to pray. Wisdom and grace to be His messengers, serving His kingdom, that we not weaken His message with our own anger. Pray with us that God will use all those leaders whose decisions in these days will determine the fate of so many people. May our loving God bring this disaster to an end.”
Israel’s military response has also led to thousands of deaths in Gaza. Right now, Christians in Gaza are just trying to survive and to help our brothers and sisters who already have lost their homes or who cannot stay in their homes any longer. Local churches that Open Doors has connections with are providing those who found shelter in the church buildings with food and water. Pray for those churches, that these buildings indeed will continue to be places of protection.
“The street where I lived, which brought me so much happiness and held childhood memories, has now turned into complete devastation,” a Christian woman in Gaza shared. “I remember the library and the shops we were so familiar with, where the owners would call us by our names and invite us in. These places have now become ruins.
“How will we return to universities and continue our education when the roads are in ruins? Can we even access them amidst all this destruction?
"The street where I lived [...] has now turned into complete devastation." Christian in Gaza
“The painful end came when they told us we had 10 minutes to leave our home because it was going to be bombed by Israeli war flights. We went to the church assuming it is a safe place.
“I hastily gathered my personal belongings and some clothes, hoping to return after the bombing, as I believed we could go back in a few hours. But the nightmare I never anticipated in my entire life became a reality - our home was bombed and destroyed, and the entire neighbourhood no longer existed. There were no more houses, just a dark cloud in the sky, and the air was thick with dust. Some of my belongings were scattered among the rubble, and I was trying to imagine where my room used to be.
“In that moment, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and wished it was a terrible dream, hoping to wake up from it soon.”
Pray also for her and all our other brothers and sisters who have lost everything.
A pastor in Bethlehem (in the West Bank) – an Open Doors regional partner – shared on social media: “Your prayers, advocacy and support are much appreciated. […] We are concerned about the high number of civilian casualties, irrespective they are Palestinians or Israelis. We call for the Geneva Convention and the International Humanitarian Law to be guaranteed by the international community.”
Pray for all those in Israel and in Gaza and on the West Bank who have lost loved ones, or who are waiting to hear about missing people. Pray for those who have lost their homes, and pray for all those who are now being treated for their injuries.
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