Gaza's Few Christians Are Fleeing

After murder, religious minority fearful under Hamas rule

By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 24, 2007 7:16 AM CST

(Newser) – It's a grim Christmas for Gaza's tiny Christian population of about 3,000, with celebrations muted in the Hamas-controlled territory, the AP says. Instead of decorating trees, many of the faithful are packing to leave the strip for good. After the murder of a prominent Baptist activist, many Christians say the area has become hostile to their faith.

“We have a very sad Christmas,” lamented one pastor. Hamas has vowed to prosecute the killer of Rami Ayyad, who managed Gaza’s only Christian bookstore and was targeted for his perceived missionary work. Community leaders say religious tensions and Israel’s economic sanctions are causing masses of Christian families to flee Gaza. “We fear what is to come,” said one refugee.

Palestinian mourners gather around the body of Rami Khader Ayyad in a church during his funeral in Gaza City, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2007. Unknown assailants killed Khader, a Christian activist, and dumped his body on a Gaza City street, Palestinian officials said Sunday, sending a shudder of fear through Gaza's...
Palestinian mourners gather around the body of Rami Khader Ayyad in a church during his funeral in Gaza City, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2007. Unknown assailants killed Khader, a Christian activist, and dumped his...   (Associated Press)
Nuns pray at a Sunday mass in the Deir Al Latin Catholic Church in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec 23, 2007. Fearing religious persecution, many Christians are leaving the Hamas-controlled territory permanently and are heading to the more tolerant West Bank. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Nuns pray at a Sunday mass in the Deir Al Latin Catholic Church in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec 23, 2007. Fearing religious persecution, many Christians are leaving the Hamas-controlled territory permanently...   (Associated Press)
Palestinian Christians pray at a Sunday mass in the Deir Al Latin Catholic Church in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec 23, 2007. Gaza is a home for almost 3,000 Christians, but many are moving to the West Bank in fear of religious persecution. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinian Christians pray at a Sunday mass in the Deir Al Latin Catholic Church in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec 23, 2007. Gaza is a home for almost 3,000 Christians, but many are moving to the West Bank in...   (Associated Press)
Palestinian Christians pray at a Sunday mass in the Deir Al Latin Catholic Church in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec 23, 2007. Gaza's tiny Christian community is keeping a low profile this Christmas, traumatized by the killing of a prominent activist in the wake of Hamas' takeover of the coastal territory....
Palestinian Christians pray at a Sunday mass in the Deir Al Latin Catholic Church in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec 23, 2007. Gaza's tiny Christian community is keeping a low profile this Christmas, traumatized...   (Associated Press)
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