Christians in Gaza have sought shelter in the church

With heavy hearts we are sharing with you the cry of our brothers and sister in DSPR-NECC in Gaza, who are living the hardest and most fearful moments in their lives, under the contentious bombardments for the last 10 days and the very poor living conditions.

Regrettably, the DSPR NECC main building in Gaza has suffered severe damage due to the ongoing war. This will leave a devastating impact on the local community and our ability to continue our vital humanitarian work. Many rooms, including critical medicine storage facilities, ceiling, graphic design center, each room and store have been directly impacted by the conflict. This loss severely hampers our capacity to provide essential medical support to those in desperate need.

Additionally, we received distressing news from the DSPR-NECC Executive Secretary, who has been forced to flee his home with his family three times in recent days to seek refuge and safety. His experiences underscore the dire and perilous situation facing the people of Gaza. Most of our Area Committee members has sought refuge with their families in the church. It is a heartbreaking reminder of the human toll this war is exacting on innocent lives.

Furthermore, we deeply regret to inform you that most our dedicated employees and DSPR- NECC Area Committee Members and previous members have had their homes severely or partially damaged. Their personal suffering reflects the widespread devastation and fear experienced by countless families in the region. Our colleagues in Gaza and the whole Christian Community have taken refuge in the Orthodox and the Latin Church. The situation on the ground has deteriorated to an unimaginable extent. The numbers of casualties is rapidly growing to unprecedented levels, the huge destruction is hard to believe. Our colleagues, along with the other innocent civilians, have sought shelter in the churches, which has now become their last resort amidst the chaos of war, while almost all of their homes get impacted, partially or severely. They are living in constant fear for their lives and the lives of their families and colleagues, due to nonstop bombardments and airstrikes that have shaken their very foundations.

No internet connection anymore there, we are in contentious contact with them by phone as the only way remains to reach them. In these darkest of hours, we ask all of you to keep our colleagues in your thoughts and prayers. However, their need for immediate assistance, including food, water, and medical supplies, has reached a critical level. Thanks to CRS for providing some resources that reduced the shortage in both churches. We learned about some suppliers in their surrounding where they can buy some basic materials from them, such as food, water and mattresses, but the danger of moving to bring these supplies is the main obstacle. We discussed with our colleagues the different alternatives to back up there plans to offer food for the people in the church, the neighboring families and the staff and their families in different locations in Gaza. They and the people of Gaza are living in harrowing conditions with limited resources, and we cannot stand idly by while they suffer, while WFP said that they have enough supplies to feed 1.3 million people for two weeks piled up on the border.

Despite of the fear and stress, our colleagues in the Churches are organizing themselves well and dividing tasks, they informed us about the women group who cooperate to cook for all, the medical committee of the 3 doctors and one nurse, the 4 social workers who formed the psychosocial support committee and started offering some services for the children and the needed people, they youth who take care of the logistics and manage the sanitation matters for such a big gathering. They are prioritization the children, elderly and women to receive mattresses and other services offered, and the leaders who help discussing all issues, assigning locations for families to stay in the churches and church premises, help solving problems, and trying to be with help with the surrounding non-Christian community whenever possible, such as sharing drinking water and some food with some neighboring families. All of this done with the blessings and support of Bishop Alexios and father Silas in the Orthodox Church and Father Yousef Assad at the Latin Church.

Two days ago, the situation took a terrifying turn as phosphorus bombs landed close to the church. These devastating bombs struck the church cemetery, few meters away from the Orthodox Church where our colleagues are seeking refuge. The proximity of these attacks are so frightening, and we can only imagine the fear our colleagues are enduring, especially that they keep receiving horrible news about their property damage, the suffering of their colleagues in other areas, such as the loss of family members of three of our staff, the collapse of the home of another colleague, while her family were there, many of her family members insured and her mother is in a critical medical situation. Faraj, the blacksmith workshop instructor in the VTC, his house has been totally damaged, three stories of Emad’s building hit and collapsed.

Yesterday, we had a meeting with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and the session was presided over by His Eminence Cardinal Piere Batista. The primary purpose of this meeting was to coordinate efforts among various (CROs) to provide assistance to those in need in Gaza during these trying times. It was a crucial gathering as we joined forces with another other organizations.

During the meeting, it became evident that there is a deep concern regarding the potential consequences of this conflict. There is a genuine fear that, after this war, we may witness the gradual disappearance of the Christian presence in Gaza. The precarious situation, displacement, and hardships faced by the Christian community is specific and all in people in General are alarming.

We in DSPR have our full support and unwavering commitment to support the people in need and pray for a swift resolution to the conflict. The preservation of the Christian community in Gaza remains and should be a matter of great importance to us and the preservation of dignity of all people will and continuo to be a priority to us .In these challenging times, we must remember to hold fast to hope, and as I said yesterday in the meeting being hopeful is one thing and working towards that hope is something difference , currently we are doing all we can, we are in touch with colleagues in Gaza every hour to check on their needs and support was provided , like food , it was left to colleagues to assess their urgent needs and we told them that we stand by them and ready to do whatever needed to alleviate their suffering , together we can make a difference.

Moreover, due to the hard situation, many international agencies’ staff and volunteers have been encouraged to leave the country, 17 of the participants in the EAPPI, the well-known WCC’s program have been evacuated. All of them left the country through Jordan, some of them stayed in Amman for one or two nights, thanks to Dr. Audeh Quawas the Chairperson of the DSPR/MECC Central Committee, for hosting them and helped in facilitating their evacuation and travel to their respective countries.

We also should mention that our colleague, Damaris, the communication and media office at the DSPR MECC Central Office in Jerusalem, is also encouraged by the German embassy to leave back to Germany due to the current situation. Damaris left 5 days ago and arrived safe to home, and now she resumed her work and sharing this update with you.

We earnestly request your support in calling for opening a real Humanitarian Corridor rather than a forced displacement plan to Egypt under fire, and to advocate for an immediate ceasefire. The need for these cannot be emphasized enough. The lives of our colleagues and all other innocent individuals in Gaza are under serious threat, and the urgency of this situation cannot be overstated. We are exploring all available avenues and channels to make their voices heard and to push for a cessation of hostilities.

Our collective efforts can make a significant difference in the lives of those trapped in this nightmarish situation. Please leverage your influence and pressure for immediate cease fire. We thank you for your support and solidarity and let us work together to ensure the safety and well-being of our colleagues, and all those affected by this horrible war.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we navigate this difficult situation. Together, we can make a difference and provide relief and hope amidst of hopeless situation.

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