'Gaza – 2 million living in a cage’
FHL Vice-Chairman Peter Rand has just returned from Gaza. Whilst there he witnessed FHL projects supporting Gaza’s tiny and beleaguered Christian community. Covering an area the size of the Isle of Wight, Gaza is the most densely populated country in the world, occupied by nearly 2 million people, with the Christian community estimated to be a little over 1,000. Cut off from Israel by a 1 kilometre ‘no go zone’, only those with permits are allowed to enter, and these are increasingly difficult to obtain, even for aid agency workers.
Peter was immensely privileged to make this trip as part of the ‘Holy Land Coordination’, a pilgrimage, organised by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Attended by bishops from around the world the pilgrimage demonstrated active support to the Christian community in the land of Jesus’ birth. Peter reports…
‘The pilgrimage included time in Bethlehem, Jaffa, Tel Aviv, and Hebron. Whilst in Jerusalem we met with Archbishop Suheil at St. George’s, the home of the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem. We also spent two days revisiting Gaza, where FHL provides employments for 21 young Christians in four separate institutions, including the Ahli Arab Hospital. We also fund 10 students at Gaza University. I met 15 of these beneficiaries who are extremely grateful for the support provided to them; without doubt, it has transformed their lives.
What has changed since my last visit 12 months ago? Not much. 60% of young people are unemployed. 70% of the population are dependent on UN for food. Electricity is still only available for 6-8 hours in every 24, but solar panels, such as those installed at the Hospital, ease the situation in a few cases. Water is still the greatest challenge, being in short supply and often polluted. 32% of the children admitted to the hospital are undernourished. Many families still live in temporary shelters as construction materials are banned from entry. Over 250,000 children remain in need of psycho-social support following the conflict in July/August 2014.
Whatever FHL has been able to achieve in Gaza during the last 30 months, whether house repairs, psycho-social support, employment or education, it is having a significant impact and transforming lives. With your help our mission over there will continue. Wherever I went, the power of Christian witness was inspired by Christian values.’