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Jordan cancels Christmas celebrations to stand with Gaza

by Heather Preston

Jordan's Council of Churches has called off Christmas festivities to stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza as the humanitarian crisis there continues to escalate.

The council announced on 5th November that all Christmas markets, parades and gift-giving events would be cancelled out of respect for the situation facing citizens in Gaza. Christmas would, instead, be observed through the practice of prayer and religious rituals.

Father Rifat Bader, an expert in Catholic-Arab relations and director of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media in Jordan, told OSV News the country would not be "celebrating with joy" this Christmas.

"We cancelled the external celebrations of Christmas. The decision was made to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas - the birth of Jesus. It's solidarity with the people of Gaza.

"We will focus only on the religious celebration, including worship services and songs inside the churches and nothing outside the churches," he added.

Praising the work of Christians helping civilians in the region, Father Bader said he continues to pray for the protection of a "Christian presence" there.

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas has escalated, Israeli forces ordered over a million residents to move south from the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Many Christians instead have sought refuge in local churches.

One of the compounds, the Greek Orthodox Church of St Porphyrius, was hit during Israel airstrikes. Nineteen Christians, including three unbaptised children, were killed.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem described the attack as a "war crime", while Israel's military said it was targeting a nearby Hamas command centre.

Members of the Roman Catholic charity Caritas told the BBC Christians sheltering in the region are fearful for their survival. "They do not sleep at night because they're terrified. The sound of the rockets is like Hell."

As Israeli forces continue to strike the Gaza Strip in pursuit of Hamas, G7 nations have announced that while Israel has the right to defend itself, 'humanitarian pauses' are needed to allow aid to reach civilians in Gaza.

Gunmen from the Palestinian militant group Hamas sparked the conflict with an attack on Israel on 7th October, killing 1,400 people and taking some 240 hostages. The militant group continues to fire rockets into the country.

According to the Ministry of Health in Ramallah, more than 10,000 Palestinians have died in the military response by Israel.

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