At the memorial service for 70-year-old Jalila Ayyad, killed when an Israeli missile hit her home in Gaza, Archbishop Alexios said: “Another human being, an innocent one, has lost her life.” The historic Greek Orthodox Church where she belonged was also sheltering 1000 Palestinians, mostly Muslims, made homeless by Israel’s military assault. So her coffin was carried out by both Christian and Muslim mourners.
“The church has been our hosts for the past two weeks, offering food, clothes and whatever we needed, their loss is our loss, their pain is our pain,” 45-year-old Abu Khaled, a Muslim man sheltering in the church, said.
The Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrius is home to most of Gaza’s more than 1300 Christians, who make up less than 1 per cent of Gaza’s population.
There were many causes for anger amongst Christians in Gaza during the 50-day military assault. Not only did an Israeli bomb damage graves in Saint Porphyrius, but Palestinian militants also fired rockets into Israel from their compound.
However, throughout the 50 days the small Christian community focused on Jesus’ call to deep love. Rev Yohanna Katanacho, Palestinian theologian at Bethlehem Bible College, corresponded with a student from Gaza: “The followers of Jesus in Gaza are afraid from violence; however, they are committed to loving their enemies and to following Jesus in this difficult situation for violence begets violence but the love of Jesus Christ is the path forward,” he wrote.
Of great frustration to Palestinians is the perceived indifference of western Christians to their situation. “The Christians in the west, most of them, they don’t know the realities here. They don’t know who is occupying who, who is oppressing who, who is confiscating whose land, who is building walls to try and separate people from one another,” East Jerusalem Baptist Pastor Rev Alex Awad said.
Palestinian Christian Arda Arghazharian is in Australia this month as a guest of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network and World Vision. See more at http://pien.org.au/arda-aghazarian-australia/
Jessica Morrison is the executive officer of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network.