Gaza Christians Fearful After Attempted Murder

CNSNews | Julie Stahl | Dec. 11, 2007

Jerusalem – The tiny Christian community in the Gaza Strip has been shaken for the second time in two months by the attempted murder of a Christian by Islamic fundamentalists who want to rid the area of Christian presence.

Four masked gunmen tried to kidnap Nabil Fuad Ayyad over the weekend. Nabil, who works as a guard at a local church, is the cousin of Rami Ayyad, who was kidnapped and murdered two months ago by the same group, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Although Gaza’s Christian community has been attacked several times over the last year and half, Rami was the first Christian to actually be killed — reportedly for refusing to convert to Islam.

In the latest attack, Nabil escaped into a nearby shop as gunmen tried to force him into a car.

The situation in Gaza is “very difficult,” a Palestinian Christian source told Cybercast News Service. The Christians there are “scared and very concerned,” he said.

Hamas has condemned the persecution of Christians in the Gaza Strip but has done little to apprehend or prosecute the culprits since it took control of the area in June.

The attacks are thought to be the work of a group that adheres to Salafism, a branch of Sunni Islam that believes that Islam was perfect and complete during the time of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed but has since been contaminated by materialism and other cultural influences.

The Salafis, who have become active in the Gaza Strip in recent months, are opposed to Western influences and refer to the 2,500 Christians in the Gaza Strip as “crusaders” to be driven out of the area, the paper reported.

They also are blamed for a series of attacks on Western-type establishments such as Internet cafes.

Justus Weiner, an international human rights lawyer and scholar at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said last week that the West was ignoring the “systematic persecution” of Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Tens of thousands of Arab Christians have fled the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the years. According to Weiner, if Christian leaders and Western governments do not step in to change the situation, there will not be much of a local Christian community in the Holy Land within 15 years.

Weiner said that many Christians are too scared to tell their stories.

Six weeks ago, American-born Pastor Isa Bajali, who has done humanitarian aid work in the West Bank city of Ramallah for years, said he was threatened by a Palestinian Authority official and others who allegedly tried to extort $30,000 from him.

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