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9 babies receive emergency baptism in Gaza

by Heather Preston

A Greek orthodox Church in Gaza has conducted an emergency baptism for nine local babies as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to escalate.

The children, all of which are linked to the St Porphyrios Greek Orthodox church, were baptised together on Sunday, amid fears that a further attack on the area could claim their lives.

A week earlier, 19 Christians, including three unbaptised children were killed in an Israeli airstrike after taking shelter in the church building.

Speaking to the World Council of Churches, St Porphyrios spokesperson Kamel Ayyad explained that if war was to claim the babies' lives, they want them to die as Christians.

“This was a painful decision, but we had no choice. Parents baptise their children in the hope for life and the future, but we baptise our children in the fear that something bad may happen.  We are in the middle of war, and anything can happen.”

The hurried ceremony took place on Sunday, where family and members of the congregation have already been gathered since 7th October. More than 150 of the church's members have lost their homes, businesses and livelihoods. 

Israel launched air strikes towards a refugee camp in Gaza on Tuesday, where it's reported more than 50 people have died. The military claim they are targeting Hamas commander, Ibrahim Biari.

Ayyad has called on churches across the world to pray for the Christians who remain in Gaza as well as all Palestinians.

Brendan Metcalfe, CEO of Friends of the Holy Land tells Premier the war is having a huge impact on Christian communities in Gaza, as thousands have sought solace in churches and compounds :

"Disease is rising, there's very unsanitary conditions, basic needs are not being met. And the impact on people mentally must be awful."

Speaking of those gathered in the Greek Orthodox Church he said: "They basically baptised everybody who was not baptised, just so that they could be sure they were Christians in the event that they were killed. So it's a very dire situation."

Metcalfe explains that people have sought solace in these churches in the hope that they are seen as "a non-combatant area".

"The people injured in the Orthodox Church have moved to the Catholic church, so there's about 100 injured people. There's about 100 children who have special needs, who are being looked after by the Sisters of Charity. And altogether, there's about 1000 people, their needs, just in terms of medicines at the moment is about $1,000 a day."

Friends of the Holy Land is helping to provide aid to these Christian compounds.




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