June 14, 2007
Gaza and the Gates of Hell
Leader reports: Evangelicals inside Gaza safe for now.
New fighting inside Gaza is creating a lawless situation that reminds me of Somalia and other fearful and bloody places around the globe.
Tragically, Gaza does not even arise to the level of being a "failed state." There's just failure, no state.
Open Doors is one of the few Christian ministries still committed to working inside Gaza, supporting the local Christians there, especially at Gaza Baptist church in Gaza City. Open Doors released this information on Thursday, June 14:
Threats by Islamic militants
Islamic militants are creating a situation that verges on anarchy. They are targeting everything that is against their view of Islam. The group "the Sword of Islam" has sent death threat letters to female broadcasters on Palestine television. "We will cut throats, and from vein to vein, if needed, to protect the spirit and morals of this nation," the group said in a statement emailed to news agencies on June 1. Recently the shop of the Bible Society was bombed by the same group. Every Christian organization is a possible target for this group. It has become clear that they are searching actively for churches and believers in Gaza and harassing them. The same kinds of groups are also active in the West Bank.
Fear Is in Control
Several sources have confirmed the firm grip of fear created by Muslims militants over the society. They say that especially believers from a Muslim background are afraid to be discovered and killed by militant forces. Not many have the courage to have contact with other Christians. Fear is trying to creep in everywhere.
Pray for the suffering Christians in Gaza, that the Lord protects them and gives them wisdom and encouragement. Pray that they will not be controlled by fear, but by a love for God and their neighbors. Pray that the political tension will cease and that Gaza will get a government that enables the whole church to prosper. Pray especially for the children.
Early this morning, I received a forwarded email from a Christian leader currently inside Gaza, he writes:
Gaza streets are again under the control of gunmen as the violence spirals out of control. Security forces loyal to different factions took up positions at major intersections in the early hours of the morning and Gaza awoke to the sounds of war. The route to --- this morning took me past numerous gunmen and a detour into an area I would have rather not gone. Arriving later than normal I was happy and surprised to see that most of the staff had already arrived.
These leaders call on Christians worldwide to uphold them in prayer.
Thursday, June 14, 2007, 17:44 CDT. Comments from inside Gaza Thursday midnight....
CT reaches influential Christian leader inside Gaza.
Christianity Today senior writer Deann Alford spoke this afternoon (about Thursday midnight local time) with an expatriate evangelical missions leader who has been doing ministry and living in the Gaza Strip, where the Islamic party Hamas has taken control. We are not releasing his name or exact location.
Are you in a safe place for now?
I'm safe and doing OK, waiting to see what happens with the new government. My building is in a really bad location right now. I'm staying with some people from the church. In this area it's been very quiet for the last few days. Everybody [in Gaza's Baptist church] seems to be out of harm's way. I'm not concerned for my safety.
What's the situation for Gaza and Gazan evangelicals?
I've seen in the last few hours that although people are cautious, they're going out without so much fear. Christians, I think, are in the same situation. There's the added uncertainty of being Christian and not knowing if that will change anything in the equation. Families I've spoken with today are not overly worried about how a Hamas government will treat them. Hamas has always treated them and taken care of them very well. I haven't seen any fear or concern of a takeover. But there's uncertainty. Nobody knows exactly what the next few days and weeks will hold.
How are church members communicating with each other?
That's become more difficult. Often it's through landline. Cell phone signals are very, very weak. Power is out in some areas.
What has the church been able to do ministry-wise?
Nothing. Every one I know from the church has stayed home.
What's the status of the church's building, which is across the street from the police station?
The security situation in some ways is safer. One party is now in complete control of the Gaza Strip. I imagine the security part could mean positive things for the church building.
How do Christians there anticipate this will play out?
We're wondering what the physical reality will be. Nobody really knows what will happen in the next few weeks. I don't imagine Israel will be too keen to allow a lot of foreigners in now. There is fear Gaza will become one big concentration camp, partly because it already is. It's very unlikely there will be any contact between Hamas government and Israel. The fear is that the humanitarian situation will go completely out of control. The common man on the street will suffer the most.
What are your plans?
I'll probably leave for the West Bank whenever there's a way out for internationals. There's only a handful of internationals in the Gaza Strip at the moment. I was planning to leave by the middle of July. I tried to leave yesterday and talked to UN security. They recommended I stay in my apartment. Today there's no way out. The border is closed.