On June 2014 Bethlehem Bible College finished teaching a course in Gaza. Dozens of Christian students took the class on Palestinian Contextual Theology as part of their MA in Christian Ministry and Leadership. I taught the course and one of my students is still working on his paper for the class. On July 8, 2014 we talked over Skype in order to clarify how he can move forward in his paper. We also talked about the situation in Gaza.
As many of you know, there is a spate of violent acts in my region. The Israeli residents are suffering from dozens of rockets fired from the Gaza strip and Palestinians in Gaza are facing an increasing number of Israeli air strikes. We are in the middle of another round of violence in a vicious circle.
Shadi, my student from Gaza, explained to me that the situation in Gaza is very difficult. On a daily basis there is no electricity from 3 PM – 11 PM. A lot of people are purchasing canned foods and storing it in their homes expecting war. At night people expect airstrikes and hope that it will not be their neighborhood or home. They are not able to leave Gaza. Only those who are over forty can have permits to travel when the borders with Egypt or Israel are open. Shadi feels that they are in a big prison with the minimum of life’s basic requirements. He added that the Baptist Church in particular is concerned because its building is opposite to a police station; the latter is a legitimate target for Israeli air strikes and it has been bombed before.
Interestingly, Shadi is not harboring anger and revenge. He is part of a church that has a martyr who was murdered by Muslim extremists, and a church that suffered from Israeli air strikes. Instead, he told me that the church of Gaza has asked all of its members to pray for peace. At first, I thought he means peace for his church or perhaps for the people in Gaza but then discovered that they are praying for peace in the whole region including the peace of Israel. Further, he added that the followers of Jesus in Gaza are afraid from violence; however, they are committed to loving their enemies and to following Jesus in this difficult situation for violence begets violence but the love of Jesus Christ is the path forward. Shadi added that he wants to follow Jesus and face violence with love, curses with blessings. Please remember the Baptist Church of Gaza in your prayers and pray also for Shadi, his wife, and his three months old daughter. May the leaders of our region and the world learn from this small church and choose peace, not war; choose justice not self-centered political programs. May these leaders choose long term solutions not a bloody shortcut.
Rev. Yohanna Katanacho, Ph.D.