Baptists in Gaza appeal for prayer after month of shelling

Baptists in Gaza are appealing to Baptists and other Christians to pray for their city which has endured a month of heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas.

By Bob Allen

The Baptist World Alliance asked Aug. 7 for prayer and financial support for Baptists and other Christians struggling to meet humanitarian needs in Gaza.

Hanna Massad, former pastor of the Gaza Baptist Church and now living in exile in Jordan, wrote BWA officials soliciting prayer amid Israeli counterstrikes to rocket attacks by Hamas underway since July 8.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli Defense Forces have struck a total of 4,762 targets in Gaza Operation Protective Edge, killing 1,867 Palestinians. During the same period, 64 IDF soldiers and three Israeli civilians have died. A 72-hour cease-fire was in effect Aug. 7, but it was far from clear it would hold.

hanna massad“Fear is everywhere and nowhere is safe,” said Massad, who travels periodically to Gaza from his ministry based in Amman. “Many people are running out of food.”

Massad has put a relief plan in place in collaboration with the Gaza Baptist Church, providing relief to 130 Christian families with preparations in place to help 1,000 Muslim families. Massad said each food package costs $60, and only half of his fundraising goal has been met.

The BWA said donations may be made online at www.bwanet.org or mailed to Baptist World Aid, c/o Baptist World Alliance, 405 N. Washington St., Falls Church, VA 22046.

Massad left Gaza after a member of his church was kidnapped and murdered, presumably for being a Christian, in 2007. He described the plight of Palestinian Christians living in the crossfire between Israel and Hamas in speeches at New Baptist Covenant gatherings in 2008 and 2009.

Massad described current fighting as the worst to date.

“The situation in Gaza is much worse than during any other conflict before,” he wrote. “I was on the telephone to some friends in the church in Gaza, and on the phone these dear brothers are breaking down in agony due to the trauma they are suffering from the constant bombardment.”

“Even amongst those who have not been killed, many lives will never be the same again," he said.

Recently the war claimed its first Christian casualty, Jalila Ayyad, a 60-year-old wife and mother known among the people of Gaza as a woman who had nothing to do with militia groups. Ayyad was buried beneath rubble after an Israeli missile struck her family’s house. Her husband was seriously injured. Her funeral was held July 27 at Saint Porphyrius Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City.

“This is just one of so many tragedies happening now in Gaza on a daily basis,” Massad said. He urged Christians everywhere to pray for the end to the conflicts and for churches that have opened their doors to those who are displaced, those offering relief and those being traumatized, including the family of Jalila Ayyad.

Massad also requested prayer “that Christians will be strong in faith and be seen as beacons of hope and love” and “that, in the midst of war, the believers will know the peace that only Christ can bring.”