Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Christians mark somber holiday season in Gaza

Gaza-A senior Hamas militant is suspected of torturing and killing the manager of a Christian bookstore in the Gaza Strip who was found dead last month. That's an alarming development, says Open Doors USA's Carl Moeller, because Hamas has previously provided a certain degree of protection for the Christian community."The most disappointing aspect of this discovery is that not only is this a Hamas person who committed this crime, apparently, but also that despite the assurances right after the murder that they had nothing to do with it, they haven't distanced themselves from him and in fact have sent him on a pilgrimage to Mecca."Rami Ayyad's murder sent shudders through the tightly-knit community. Christmas found a low-profile celebration in the region, the observance suppressed by fears of violence.The concern over Hamas' alleged involvement is confirmed by Moeller. The person thought responsible for the attack is Ashraf Abu Layla, the central Gaza chief of Hamas' so-called military wing.Ayyad, a Baptist, was accused by Gaza-based Islamic groups of engaging in missionary activities. His bookstore, owned by the Palestinian Bible Society, was firebombed in April.SAT-7's Terry Ascott says it's no wonder that believers feel like they're under siege."Pray for the Bible Society director and all the Bible Society staff throughout the Palestinian territories, that they wouldn't be discouraged by this. Pray that the Word of God would continue to be made available throughout the territories.We have a strong partnership with the Bible Society, and we very much see what we do as complimenting their work, by taking Scripture to satellite television."That means ministry continues, although the other impact of this, he explains, is the disruption of ministry. "The killing of the bookstore owner who's associated with the Bible Society has led actually to all the related staff to that shop being evacuated from Gaza. There's just one person left who could not yet receive permission from the Israeli authorities to cross out of Gaza."Open Doors' Moeller says Christians are asking prayer for boldness. "Believers who continue to promote their faith evangelistically, despite their commitment to the general welfare of Gaza, and their commitment to the people of Gaza to serve them, that there will be increasing threat against their existence in Gaza as a result of this."There are estimates that up to 70% of the Christian community plan to leave at the earliest opportunity. Pray for the staff of the Bible Society.There is already a remnant church in Gaza; pray for the safety of those who remain, that their faith will speak loudly.
As in the days of Noah....

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