• PALESTINE \ Apr 22, 2009
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    Pastor Hanna Masaad from Gaza speaks at Baylor University
Pastor Hanna Masaad from Gaza speaks at Baylor University During the lecture, the Fuller Theological Seminary graduate said that the cause of the conflicts was the land battles that began in 1946 between Palestinians and Jews.

"Many media outlets have attributed the fights to be between Islam and Judaism," Massad said. "The fights were not started by that in the beginning."

Barrier walls and checkpoints stop many of the citizens from entering or leaving the strip, Massad said. Denied visas and delayed travel are common occurrences in the daily lives of the oppressed citizens within Gaza.

"My second daughter was born, but I was not there because I wasn't able to cross the border," Massad said. "My wife and I were separated for 10 months because she was denied a visa."

With more than 700 checkpoints along the border, Gaza citizens often face humiliation an embarrassment on trips outside of the country, Massad said. The tension between the two people groups has caused school children to miss school and has taken the lives of numerous civilians.

Massad, born in Gaza City, became pastor of the Gaza Baptist Evangelical Church in 1987. His church functions as the only evangelical church in the Gaza Strip, a country with 1.5 million people and a world-leading birthrate of 3.5 percent.

In February 2006, an unknown suspect bombed the church building, he said. Much of the church was destroyed and the it hired guards to secure the facilities after the bombing.

Gaza Baptist Church recently built a 5-floor building that now houses the only public library in Gaza, a worship center and a Christian mentoring program. He said the program has 200 students; 99 percent are Muslim and 75 percent come from poverty.

Despite the militant forces that are ever-present in Gaza, Massad said he understands the place his Christian faith has in the improvement of the dramatic scene.

"One thing that touched my heart was God's love. He gave me love for my people and all others, too," Massad said. "I knew the love of God would allow me to help these people and to work in this environment."

Massad received his Master's in Divinity and Ph.D. in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently on study leave at Overseas Ministries Study Center in Connecticut.

David Ngong, a temporary full-time lecturer, was key in recruiting Massad to speak at Baylor.

"He was coming to town to speak at Lakeshore Baptist Church and I thought people knew a lot about the conflict in Gaza." Ngong said. "I also thought that (Massad's) perspective would be an interesting one to discuss for the Global Issues series."

Massad said his main goal in attempting to relieve the struggles in the Gaza strip is to give glory to God and understand His identity.

"I am a Christian and a Palestinian," Massad said. "Finding the identity of me and my people is the reason I work so hard."

 F.R, April 23, 2009 10:13