Blockades, Unemployment, Poor Living Conditions; Christians in Gaza Left to Just over a Thousand

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The Christian population in Gaza continues to dwindle owing to the worsening living conditions in the area.

In recent months at least thirty young people decided to leave the land in which they were born to emigrate and funeral services are frequent as the old people reach the end of their life on earth.

Rev. Mario da Silva IVI, parish priest of the Latin Catholic Holy Family church, in an interview with Andres Bergamini revealed in a report that there is little hope for short-term change, regarding a collective condition of international isolation , scarcity of jobs and persistent threat of new outbreaks of war

Christians still in the Gaza Strip number just over one thousand. And perhaps the condition in which they live enables them to recognise what can protect and fortify Christian hope in every situation.

Accompanied by their parish priest, a member of the Institute of the Divine Word, young Christians and religious sisters go regularly to distribute food packages to families most in need. After a day of charitable activity Sister Milagro says: “We listen to the sad stories of people who are desperate and hungry: none have jobs, many are children in need of medical care. Poor dwellings have metal-sheet walls and roofs and no electricity and the winter cold penetrates everywhere”.

The ongoing Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and the highest unemployment rate in the world are prompting Christians to leave the besieged area in droves, some using the holiday season to their advantage.

Although Israel rarely grants permits to leave the Palestinian territory, dozens of Christians are allowed to visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem during Easter and Christmas, and some take the opportunity to never return home so they can start a new life elsewhere.

“People might think we’re leaving because of Hamas, but no it’s because of … (Israeli) policies on Gaza,” Jaber Jilder, an official with the Greek Orthodox Church said, referring to the militant group that governs Gaza and is labeled a terrorist organization by the United States and others.

Israeli sanctions on Gaza have made freedom of movement and goods almost non-existent, and have contributed to an economy that the World Bank said is on the “verge of collapse.” A United Nations report this year said the 2014 Israeli-Hamas war and the current blockade will make the Palestinian territory “unlivable” by 2020.