Tuesday, January 13

Gazan Christians Stranded in Bethlehem

The Bethlehem Bible College (BBC) reopened Monday with somber reflections on the war that has transpired over the holiday/semester break. Many here have relatives living in Gaza, including Selwa, the wife of BBC's president and my Arabic tutor. She has been distraught about the ongoing military campaign and could only respond to me saying, "I have Gaza on my mind." It has been difficult to get going again with the routines of the new semester as so many are affected either personally or by the relationship between BBC and the Protestant church community in Gaza.

Bishara Awad, the President of BBC, said in devotions that we should begin our year by praying unceasingly as the Bible instructs, pointing specifically to the story about the persistent widow who continually nags an unjust judge until he submits to her requests. The evangelical church in Bethlehem is committed to praying constantly for the conflict to end and for God to help the suffering people. Also, BBC is raising funds to send to the Baptist Church in Gaza to distribute as aid. Tomorrow, Wednesday, Christians in Bethlehem will be fasting to remember and pray for Gaza.

One issue that has arisen is that many families, particularly elderly Christians from Gaza, were able to receive permission this Christmas time to visit Bethlehem. As the war broke out on December 27th, they have been stranded in the West Bank and their permissions have expired. To get home again will be quite a challenge due to the border problems—expired permissions—and also, clearly, because the war has devastated Gaza's infrastructure. Meanwhile dozens of families remain in Bethlehem at hotels and with relatives, unable to contact their families in Gaza to see how they are fairing. One woman was at the BBC yesterday and told me she did get to call her relatives in Gaza but that their living situation was grim without running water, electricity or heat. Their food has spoiled in the refrigerator, which cannot run.

The Church in Gaza is very small—around 2,500 of 1.5 million Gazan Palestinians are part of Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant groups. Three Christians are known to have been killed as a result of the war.

Please join Bethlehem Bible College in praying and fasting for peace in Gaza.

Kimberly MacVaugh is an MCC SALT worker, serving her one year term in Israel/Palestine. She is a recent graduate of Messiah College in Pennsylvania, and she hopes her experiences here will lead to long-term work for peace and justice in the Middle East.

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