31/10/2023 we heard the distressing and profoundly shocking news that the Orthodox Church’s Arab Orthodox Cultural Centre in Gaza has been deliberately destroyed in an air strike.  There were no casualties, as the 3,000 people sheltering there were told to leave in advance.  Joseph Hazboun, regional director of the Pontifical Mission in Jerusalem which works in partnership with the Centre, as does the Friends of the Holy Land and a sister NGO Embrace the Middle East, told us:

“Two days ago, the Director of the Arab Orthodox Cultural Center (AOCC) in Gaza received a phone call from the Israelis inquiring about the center's occupants. They were told that there over 3,000 displaced families sheltering at the center. Another phone call later gave clear orders to evacuate the building; all those sheltering at the center immediately left. Several attempts by various parties were made in order to stop the bombing. Unfortunately, last evening the building was bombed.”

The AOCC was a particularly impressive and important building opened only four years ago with a specific mission to facilitate social change and development, creativity and leadership in Palestinian society. Friends of the Holy Land and Embrace the Middle East, in partnership with the Pontifical Mission, have invested significantly in this new venture, which was successfully employing 23 young people, who were trained and supported through this partnership. The AOCC was on course to become a self-sustaining success story - generating income, providing employment, delivering a wide range of services, and providing a place for the local community to meet.  It is hard to understand why a Christian institution serving the common good in Gaza would be targeted and destroyed.

The Arab Orthodox Cultural Centre last year.

The remains of the Arab Orthodox Cultural Centre today.