IDF Kills Gazan Churchgoers Amid Subdued Christmas Prayers

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Munther Isaac, a pastor at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem speaking to AJ+. Credit: AJ+ video.
Munther Isaac, a pastor at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem speaking to AJ+. Credit: AJ+ video.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem condemned the Israel Defense Force snipers’ killing of two women inside the Holy Family Church in Gaza on December 16. “Nahida and her daughter Samar were shot and killed as they walked to the Sister’s Convent,” reads a Patriarch press release which says seven other people were wounded inside the compound –all shot “in cold blood.” 

The release also references tank fire that targeted the convent inside the church on the same morning, which destroyed the premises and displaced 54 disabled persons who were living there. “Furthermore, solar panels and water tanks, which are indispensable for the survival of the community, were destroyed.”

British MP Layla Moran has family members sheltering in the church and remains worried after the shooting. 

According to the National Catholic Register, 650 Christian refugees were living in the church before the bloodshed, out of the total “1,017 Christians who lived in Gaza prior to the war.”

250 or so took refuge in the Orthodox church, which was damaged by air strikes on October 18. 18 were killed on that day and 30 injured, according to the Register.

Because of the suffering in Gaza, “leaders of the various Holy Land churches have asked their communities to forgo public Christmas festivities,” notes the Register. 

The patriarchs and heads of the churches in Jerusalem called for people to “focus more on the spiritual meaning of Christmas…with all the focus directed at holding in our thoughts our brothers and sisters affected by the war and its consequences, and with fervent prayers for a just and lasting peace for our beloved Holy Land.”

Munther Isaac, a pastor at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem went further in an interview with AJ+. In the annual nativity display, the church placed an effigy of baby Jesus in a keffiyeh under broken cement. “We said in church that if Jesus was born today, he would be born in Gaza under the rubble…God is with the suffering and the oppressed.”