22nd November 2023

Strange. Instant TV news coverage of the Israel-Hamas war brings – by the hour and almost as it happens – the horrors in Gaza right into our living rooms. On the other hand, because so many of those fighting and suffering are not ‘us’, separated from us by geography and often differing by religion and language, the war still seems somehow distant. It’s about ‘them’, ‘over there’.

But I’ve just been reading the reports from the Baptists in Gaza – yes, there are Baptists in Gaza too (I recall visiting the Baptist-run hospital there, sadly now closed, some 30 years ago). Along with the St Porphyrus Greek Orthodox Church and the Holy Family Catholic Church, the Baptist Church in Gaza City is holding on there, the image of the cross still etched over its open gate. But at what cost! The pastor, Hannah Maher, was visiting Egypt when the war erupted and is now trapped there while his wife Janet and three children are still in Gaza, having with many others been given shelter at the St Porphyrus Church. On 18 October an Israeli airstrike, targeting a Hamas command centre nearby, resulted in the deaths of 20 people sheltering there, including 18 Christians. Among them were Janet’s cousin, one of her close friends, the sister of an elder in the Baptist Church, his wife and granddaughter, and three children who attended the Baptist Sunday School. Before the bombing Janet had been reading the Bible and praying with many.

This isn’t just ‘them’, ‘over there’. This ‘collateral damage’ is happening to our family in the Body of Christ.

Keith Clements