GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH PROVIDES REFUGE TO PALESTINIANS
600 people are being cared for by Archbishop Alexios in downtown Gaza
23 Jul 2014
A Greek Orthodox church in Gaza is providing refuge for dozens of Palestinian families fleeing Israeli bombing.
The church in downtown Gaza City is hosting about 600 people in total and only two out of all the families there are Christians, the Wall Street Journal’s Middle East correspondent Tamer El-Ghobashy reported.
“We’re cooperating with the mosque next door. We’re looking after around 1,000 people between us,” Archbishop Alexios, who has served Greek Orthodox Christians in Gaza for some 14 years, told Peter Beaumont of the Guardian.
“People started coming in on Sunday, more and more people, so we couldn’t even think about holding our Sunday service. We gave them blankets and water and money for food.”
Palestinians arrived at the church after heavy bombing in the neighbouring district of Shujai’iya.
One woman was forced into early labour by the bombing but gave birth successfully, according to the archbishop.
“It is not only death in Gaza, there is life,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
“We accept people without discrimination. We are brothers. We are a family.”
Alexios said that shrapnel from the bombing has destroyed the church’s water tanks.
The number of people between killed since an Israeli offensive against Palestinian militants started two weeks ago has risen above 500.
TEXT SAID TO EVACUATE, BUT GAZA PARISH STAFF HAD NOWHERE TO GO
By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service
JERUSALEM (CNS) — When the staff at the lone Catholic parish in the Gaza Strip received text warnings to evacuate the premises, they had nowhere to go. Father Raed Abusahlia, president of Caritas Jerusalem who has been in contact with the parish priest, told Catholic News Service that Father Jorge Hernandez of the Institute of the Incarnate Word and three nuns who live at the parish had nowhere to evacuate the 29 severely disabled children and nine elderly women in their care.
Since Israel launched airstrikes against Gaza July 8, it has sent text messages to citizens to evacuate if they will be near a target. Israel bombed near Holy Family Catholic Church the morning of July 30. The Vatican’s Fides news agency, citing details from Father Hernandez, said the main target of the bombing was a home a few meters away from the parish. The home was completely destroyed, and the parish school, office and some rooms used by the parish were partially destroyed. Father Abusahlia told CNS all the windows of the whole compound, as well as that of the Greek Orthodox Church, already were shattered from previous bombings of buildings around them. “They are in a very difficult situation,” said Father Abusahlia. “It is a very dangerous area.” He said the number of refugees at the parish school, some distance away from the parish compound, increased from 600 people to 1,400 in the week ending July 30, and the number of refugees sheltered by the Greek Orthodox Church had increased from 1,400 to 1,900. Caritas has been providing them with powdered milk, diapers and gasoline, which is especially important after the attack on the Gaza electrical plant. They rely on generators, Father Abusahlia said, and the gas to run them is very difficult and expensive to obtain. Fides quoted Father Hernandez as saying: “We had a tough night, but we are here. This war is absurd. “Everything happens around us,” he said. “The Hamas militants continue to fire rockets and then hide in the alleys. And we cannot do anything. We cannot evacuate, it is impossible with children. Their families live here. It is more dangerous to go out than stay here. We try to stay in safer places, always on the ground floor.”