Open Doors USA: Newsflashes from the Persecuted Church
(Published every Tuesday & Thursday)
July 31, 2014
Gaza: Baptist Church No Longer Holding Services
Since Gaza has turned into a war zone over the past few weeks, the small Baptist community is no longer holding church services.
Hanna Maher is pastor of the Baptist church in Gaza City. Because of the insecurity, he is not able to visit all members of the church. He stays in touch by phone with the families he cannot visit. A Open Doors contact shares: “Last weekend, we had a phone call with pastor Hanna. We considered to having a church service in our church on Sunday during the time of a cease fire. But since it became very clear that the cease fire was not being kept, we decided it was irresponsible to meet together in the church.”
The Open Doors country coordinator for Israel and Palestinian area explains: “The Baptist church and the library of the church are right across the street from a police station. That police station has been attacked several times, so it is a potential dangerous area. The authorities also requested to have the library closed for the time being.”
To encourage each other, the members of the church stay in touch with each other through telephone – if the lines are working – and also through organizing house meetings.
For some Christians, the threat is coming closer. One family was instructed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to temporarily leave their apartment building since they were preparing an attack on a house nearby.
And although attacks by the IDF are often very precise, sometimes mistakes are made. Last Sunday such an inaccuracy took the life of a Greek Orthodox Christian woman, Jalila Ayyad, who was in her 60’s.
Because of the war, many people have lost their home or cannot return to their houses for the time being. “If one house in an apartment building is damaged because of an attack, then often the whole apartment building is closed for fear of collapsing,” says a Gaza believer. “Over 160,000 people have no houses these days. Many of them come to Gaza City to live with relatives. We see the difference and that it is even more crowded than before. This is a big burden for the families living here, but we do what we can to help. If it is necessary then we welcome relatives who need help.”
Apart from the Baptist church, the only two other active churches in all the Gaza Strip are the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Both churches have welcomed refugees from areas in Gaza that have taken heavy incoming artillery fire. Among the 1.7 million Muslims, there are approximately 1,500-2,000 Christians.
Iraq: Christian Woman Refugee Pleads for Help
Below is a translation of a YouTube video originally recorded by the Assyrian TV Channel Isthar. The Iraqi Christian woman from Mosul is displaced because of the violence of the terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS). The translation is done by the Assyrian Christian organization CAPNI. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiEb62a2GFE
Is life as a human being without his/her own identity possible? I don’t think so.
The most natural right of a human being is the right of an identity.
I don’t wish my experiences in Mosul to any human being on earth. They (ISIS) threatened us with death. They forced us to pay jizya (a tax for non-Muslims, also called “protection money”), knowing that we can’t. For years we have lived close to poverty. They took away our right to move freely. In our emergency, we Christians looked for help everywhere, but didn’t find it.
They took us out from the redistribution of food. The reason was always the same: “You are Christians; you don’t have any rights here,”
Now I ask you (Muslims of Mosul): why are you doing this to us? Why did you abandon us? We were neighbors; we were a community. We all lived together and supported each other – as doctors, pharmacists, and workers. Why did you turn your back on us? Is this what we earn for all what we did in our community?
The Quran says that no one can enter a stranger’s home without being let in or entering by force. Why did you demolish all our homes and took all our possessions? Your Prophet Muhammad says that a nice word is already a good deed. Why does a salesman, with whom I talked with and from which I bought something yesterday, not want to have anything to do with me?
The extremists of ISIS could never have captured our beautiful city if they were not welcomed by the majority. If my neighbors would have stood on my side, ISIS couldn’t have forced me to leave. That is what hurts me most – our community betrayed us.
That is the fourth time I had to leave my home. The fourth time I have been displaced. The fourth time one told me that I have “to go away from here.” But where should I go to? Many of us have never reached their destinations, Europe or America, because they died on their way.
I lost everything: my house, because it was destroyed; my work, because nobody would employ a Christian; my future, because you can’t expect support from the Iraqi government. But especially I lost my memories. Because even if one day we would return home, nothing will be like it once was.
I plead to the international community, to churches, to human rights organizations, to the United Nations – to all who promote a peaceful living together, to help us!
(Open Doors is helping refugees in Iraq and around the world. To donate, go to https://secure2.convio.net/ccod/site/Donation2?df_id=6880&6880.donation=form1.