03/02/2018, 15.07
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The 'shepherds of the church' visit Gaza for the future of the little 'flock'

by Maddalena Tomassini

About 30 bishops have visited Gaza in the last two months. The meeting with the young people, who leave because "they do not see a future". The situation is the "worst" in recent years: no work, water, electricity.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - "Church pastors seek and find time to visit the flock" in Gaza, where a serious humanitarian crisis afflicts the entire population of almost 2 million people. For the small Christian community the visit of Christian leaders is "a great grace", and "source of hope" that the Church's commitment will help them stay in Gaza, creating jobs, Fr. Mario Da Silva tells AsiaNews.

Fr. Da Silva is parish priest in Gaza and says the current situation is "perhaps the worst" he has lived in six years of service. "Electricity is now reduced to only three hours a day. It was already difficult before, when it was eight, now it's even worse. There is no water, which sometimes does not arrive, and when it arrives, there is not always the electricity needed to pump it into the tank," says the parish priest. Another serious problem is the lack of work and the salaries that do not arrive: "The Palestinian Authority has dismissed about 20 thousand employees ... work was a problem even before, with about 45% of the population unemployed ".

In addition, Gaza is still today like  "a giant prison" where "nothing enters": "I was at the Rafah Pass the other day, where they told me that very few trucks pass with medicines, food or merchandise, things we need to survive. The border crossings are all closed. You cannot go to Erez, and the Egypt one opens once every two months for three days". At the end of February "they were supposed to open for four days, but they opened one day. There are 30 thousand people who want to leave, but maybe 400 people will have passed. "

A suffering to which the pastors of the Church "are not indifferent. In the last two months, about thirty bishops from "the whole world" - "from the African countries, France, England, United States ..." - have visited the Gaza Strip, to see the situation with their own eyes and bring it back to the respective episcopal conferences. Next week the new apostolic delegate of Jerusalem, Msgr. Leopoldo Girelli, and the visit of the patriarch emeritus Michel Sabbah is also scheduled. After Sunday Mass, religious leaders meet with the parishioners, who tell them about their everyday sufferings. The nuncio also went to visit the Christian and Muslim families of the 45 disabled children for whom the sisters of Mother Teresa care".  “This is beautiful work", says Fr. Da Silva, "for very poor families".

The first group of 15 bishops arrived in Gaza on 11 January. "We had a wonderful meeting with the young people. These young people who are leaving us, looking for a better future away from Gaza. They talked about their problems, why they leave ".

The same was repeated with the visit of a dozen US bishops on January 24th.

"The conclusion they came up with is that young people leave because they do not see a future here, because they do not have a permanent job. Many of them are engineers, lawyers, accountants, doctors, pharmacists. But they cannot find work here. If there is no future, if Gaza cannot offer anything for them, they leave ". For this reason, the prelates and the institutions that accompanied them are committed to starting projects to create work: "For us it is a source of hope, that through institutions such as the patriarchy, the Pontifical Mission, we can try to give work, mainly to young people. There are already 25 working people who are paid by the Church in Christian institutions, such as the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, the Christian hospital, the schools of the Latin Patriarchate ".

But the fear that the Christian community will die out is ever present: "I am very worried, because the numbers reveal a catastrophic situation. In 2005, the Christian community here was 3,000 - 3,500, according to some 4,000, today we are talking about 1,000 Christians, and that is including Catholics and Orthodox. Over about ten years 3 thousand Christians have left ".

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