King's Evangelical Divinity School

24 January 2011

Remembering Christians in Gaza

The Egyptian authorities investigating the recent bombing of a Christian church in Alexandria, which killed 21 worshippers, have stated the attack was carried out by a Palestinian Islamist group working out of Gaza. Details of the story can be found in the New York Times (Google it and you'll also find it reported from different angles cross various news outlets). Is it true? Quite possibly. Several observers suggest Egypt is simply trying to ease sectarian conflict in the wake of the attack, while the group has denied the story. But of some things we can be quite sure. For example, the Gaza-based group is definitely Islamist in nature, with links to the extremist Abu Qatada, currently imprisoned in the UK. The group belongs to the Dagmoush clan (a Hamas rival in Gaza), which operated in true mafia style. They held the BBC reporter Alan Johnson and participated in the kidnap of the Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. Meanwhile, the group has been linked with the attack on a Christian bookstore in Gaza. More details about the clan be found in a Spiegel report here and an early Guardian analysis here.

My point is simply this. There is a tiny number of Christians in Gaza who face considerable difficulties because of their faith, including several well-publicised cases of violence and death. It must be truly difficult for such Christians, not only hounded by Islamists but having to rely on policing provided by an equally Islamist organisation. Meanwhile, that someone can plant a bomb and kill 21 worshippers at a church service demonstrates all too clearly such persecution is very real in that part of the world, and Christians there must live in circumstances and face challenges to their faith many of us in freer countries can barely conceive. Pray for the Christians of Gaza.


Andrew Sibley said...

Absolutely agree Calvin. Although I wonder whether you wish to start a discussion over Baroness Warsi's comments about the different between moderate and extremist Muslims. Although she condemn's violence she doesn't think that distinction is helpful to build understanding. The question is for us (well me anyway), how do we effectively challenge Islamic terrorists who advocate violence against Christians and Jews and at the same time seek to build bridges with Muslims so that we can help lead them to Christ?

Anonymous said...

Hi Calvin

I also admire your interest in the plight of Christians in the less peaceful environment of the Near East.
There are a couple of point which I thought about recently:

1. How do we sort out the problem with radical Islam

2. How could there be a lasting and Biblical truce between Israel and Palestine.

For the first one, I see a very helping hand from secularism and its alluring crusade deep into the Muslim lands. Night clubs, fancy magazines, new fashion etc. coupled with education and an appeal to reason rather than emotion, gradually is replacing fundamentalism with what's common for all of humanity as the good old Froid believed- desire to avoid pain and gain pleasure, possibly, by reasonably managed means.
If we go and preach Christ, as Apostille Paul did in Europe and Asia Minor once, in the Muslim world that would mostly create moral-religious panic and violence. (Christ can be preached through the less risk involving channel of the electronic and other media).
Secularism, on another hand, and alas the "temptations" it offers along with its promise for freedom and independent thinking (no comment now on how qualitative that freedom is) seems to break (rather consistently erode) more easily the chains of fundamentalism without sparking religious clashes.
It creates more pluralistic and tolerant in outlook people, similarly to the cultures Ap Paul was preaching to. They might rebel here and there and even become violent, but that is an exception rather than a norm as it is now.
I know a guy who works in a Muslim country and he told me that for 24 years he lead about "only" 100 people to Christ but being afraid of violent opposition he had to pray sometimes for weeks for somebody before he would share the Gospel with them. In a secular Muslim environment, Christ's message has more fair minded auditory and secularism helps that more effectively than a more religious based approach.

Secondly, the problem with the land and its lawful belonging would be difficult to resolve unless the Israeli government's approach is not more radically economic and Biblical at the same time. What do I mean? First of all the Palestinians should be given the land of the ancient Philistine which included the Gaza strip up along the coast till Ashhod. This land was Biblically given to Gerar the King of the Philistines. Then Israel should try and invest wisely vast amounts of money creating a vibrant and economically stable democracy next door. Thirdly, all Palestinians everywhere would be naturally attracted by the prosperity of their country and those in West Bank should be offered financial help say (10 000 - 20 000$) to relocate to their country. Thus we achieve perfect equilibrium between fairness and Biblical idealism leading to a long lasting solution of an ongoing problem which is not within sight of resolving unless something is done differently.