Gaza (AsiaNews) – A Palestinian protestant missionary was killed yesterday. He went missing Saturday October 6th in the afternoon and his body was found yesterday in a city street, tortured and with to bullet wounds to the head. Authorities from Shifa hospital confirmed that his body carried diverse knife wounds.
Rami Khader Ayyad, 32, was the director of the only Christian bookshop in Gaza, linked to the protestant organisation of the Palestinian Bible society. Ayyad had received death threats for his missionary work in spreading the Gospel. Last April his bookshop had been burnt during a campaign against “vice” launched by the group “the sword of Islam”.
Simon Azazian, spokesperson for the Bible Society in Jerusalem declared that Ayyad was killed for “his Christian faith”. Azazian confirms that October 5th, Ayyad had been followed by a car without registration plates. Saturday afternoon, as he closed his shop, he was kidnapped by a group of unknown men. Ayyad then phoned his family – his wife and two children – saying that he would be late home. His body was found lifeless the next day.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, immediately issued a statement calling the killing “a desperate attempt to sabotage the good social relations in Palestinian society and the friendly relations between Christian and Muslims”.
Hamas authorities, who manage security in Gaza, have promised to punish “without pity” the authors of the crime who, “compromise the security and stability of our people”.
In Gaza there are around 3,200 Christians – Greek Orthodox, Catholic and protestant – compared to a Muslim population of circa 1.5 million. Relations between the two communities, by and large are calm, united by the same ethnic roots. The rising Islamic fundamentalism in Gaza and in the Palestinian world is however creating increasing incidents between the two. During the Hamas takeover, vandals ransacked a Catholic convent and an adjacent Rosary Sisters school, breakingcrosses and smashing the face of a ceramic Jesus. No one claimed responsibility, and Hamas vehemently denied involvement.
Even during the crises created by the Muhammad cartoon affair the Catholic Church in Gaza was besieged forcing an immediate police intervention.
Ayyad was a Protestant Baptist, well known for his courage. Often he was criticised by yellow Christians for his work which they considered too visible and explicit, linked to foreign Protestants. Majority of the Christians in fact prefer keeping a low profile to avoid any difficulties or accusations linked to proselytism.
Questioned by AsiaNews, Fr. David Maria Jaeger, an Israel Franciscan in the Holy Land said: “Ayyad was an intrepid Christian, a glory for the entire community of believers in Christ who live in His homeland. The fact that he belonged to the Protestant community underlines that what unites us outstrips what divides us. And its not the first time in the Region that the protestant evangelicals enlighten us and teach us to have faith in Christ, free from conditioning, free from fear and a presumptuous “prudence”, which all too often burden so many of us Christians”.
Fr. Jaeger calls Rami Ayyad “a martyr”. “From the proto-martyr Stephan to today, the Church in the Holy Land has been enriched by the witness of so many martyrs. We can only place our hope in the ancient and comforting certainty that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians”.