Gaza’s Christians Fear ‘Threat of Extinction’ amid Israel Onslaught

Gaza’s Christians Fear ‘Threat of Extinction’ amid Israel Onslaught

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The Gaza Strip's Christian community, the world's oldest, is grappling with a profound sense of fear and existential threat in the face of Israel's ongoing assault on the enclave.

As Israeli bombs ravage the streets, Gaza's Christians, numbering only 800 to 1,000, fear the possibility of extinction.

The recent bombing of Gaza's oldest church and escalating violence across the Holy Land have sparked concerns among Christian leaders, with warnings that within this generation, Christianity in Gaza may cease to exist.

Diana Tarazi and her family sought refuge in the Holy Family Church, the sole Roman Catholic place of worship in the Gaza Strip.

The 38-year-old Palestinian Christian, alongside fellow churchgoers and Muslim neighbors, experienced the destruction of their sense of safety when Israel bombed the nearby Church of Saint Porphyrius, Gaza’s oldest, on October 19, killing at least 18 people.

The Israeli regime army claimed the church was not the intended target. However, Tarazi expressed disbelief, stating, “The missile fell directly on it.” This attack followed an explosion at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital two days earlier, causing hundreds of casualties. 

Despite being surrounded by Israeli ground forces and enduring air raids, Tarazi refuses to leave, declaring, “We do not accept displacement from our country, our land, and our churches. I will not leave the church except to the grave.”

More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7. The Christian community in Gaza is estimated to consist of only 800 to 1,000 individuals.

Mitri Raheb, an Evangelical Lutheran pastor, and founder of Dar al-Kalima University in Bethlehem, expressed concern that the current conflict might mark the end of their long history in the region.

“This community is under the threat of extinction. I’m not sure if they will survive the Israeli bombing, and even if they survive, I think many of them will want to emigrate,” Raheb warned.

The historic region of Palestine, the birthplace of Christianity, has seen a decline in the Christian population. After the Israeli usurpation of Palestine in 1948, and the subsequent displacement of Palestinians in what became known as the Nakba, more Palestinian Christians joined the community in Gaza.

However, recent estimates indicate a decrease in the number of Christians in Gaza from the 3,000 registered in 2007.

In the West Bank, where over 47,000 Christians reside, violence and persecution have also unsettled the community. Raheb, who documents such events, revealed that attacks on clergy and churches in the West Bank had quadrupled this year compared to the previous year.

The escalation of violence is not limited to Gaza. Recent incidents include the desecration of graves in Jerusalem al-Quds’s Protestant Mount Zion Cemetery, attacks on an Armenian bar in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds, and assaults on Armenians leaving a memorial service.

Raheb expressed concern that the constant threat of violence might eventually drive Christianity out of the Holy Land. Meanwhile, in Gaza, Ramez al-Souri grapples with the devastating loss of his three children in the Church of Saint Porphyrius bombing.

“My three children came out disfigured from the effects of the missile and shrapnel,” al-Souri lamented, underscoring the deep impact of the Israeli bombardment on civilians, even within holy sites.

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