Living Lent with Christians of Gaza
Gaza – The Holy Family Parish started its preparation for Easter, proposing Ways of the Cross, an oratorio for children and helping needy families.
The small Christian community of Gaza, throughout these weeks of Lent, has mixed feelings: “During this month of February, five of our faithful have passed away – according to Fr. Mario Da Silva, Parish Priest, on his way to the Orthodox Church of St. Porfirio to attend funerals – they were elderly or sick people. The community is increasingly shrinking. Over the last months, some thirty parish members managed to leave the Gaza Strip”.
Nobody believes in an imminent change. The international isolation, the unemployment, the high cost of living, the possibility of war are taking their toll on the morale of the inhabitants – especially the youth – who keep on dreaming of leaving the city.
The number of Christians is more than one thousand right now. They try by all means to lead a decent life and to remain positive. The parish suggests several initiatives. This Friday, for the Way of the Cross and mass, there were some 20 parishioners: “less than usual, for there were funerals at the same time”, said Sr. Nabila, Head of the Rosary School.
On Saturday morning, the Parish Priest went to distribute food packages among needy families in the district of Shujaiya: “we hear lots of stories from desperate and starving families; people are jobless, with many children around. There are sick people who require urgent health care. Houses are demolished and there is no electricity. Walls and roofs are made out of aluminum sheets, the cold of the winter gets into homes from all sides”, said Sr. Milagro, who accompanied Fr. Mario during the visits.
In the parish, renovation works started few months ago, thanks to efforts by the Project Development Office run by the Latin Patriarchate. Out of the 12 scheduled projects, some were already finished (read: the visit of the Patriarch last December). The on-going work involves the priest’s home, with new halls for catechisms and meetings, as well as new offices (photos and video on PDO site).
Fr. Mario is proud of the site: “These are very important projects for Christians of Gaza. They allow the flow of community and liturgical activities. These works were made possible thanks to generous donors who never forget our community”.
Saturday afternoon, some 50 children filled the recreation room – inaugurated just before Christmas – through their laughter and games.
Sunday mass was very lively: Fr. Victor talked in his homily about the Transfiguration. After mass, parish members gathered in the courtyard for a cup of coffee.
“The Israeli authorities asked us to send a list of names for permits for the Easter. We have gathered close to 800 names and we hope that many will be able to go to Jerusalem this year, including those from between the ages of 16 – 35 years – usually excluded – said Fr. Mario – we look forward to take part in the program of the World Day of Youth in Cracow in July 2016. We hope to be able to send five of our youth with the Palestine and Israel group”.
Video, photos, text: Andres Bergamini