Report on Christian institutions in Gaza
This voluntary women’s group works under the auspices of the Greek Orthodox Church. The society claims the Greek Orthodox Church has the largest concentration of Christians in Gaza.
Official statistics put the number of Christians at about 3,000 in a population of some 1.5 million.
However, a recent unofficial survey by the society puts the number at about half the official statistics at 1,500. Regardless of the number, the strength of the Christian community lies in its institutions and its services whether in education, health or social fields, serving all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
An interesting project the society would like to embark upon is a small business in dressmaking, tailoring all uniforms in collaboration with local Christian schools, hospitals and clinics. This will not only create jobs but also help Christian families depend less on charity, restoring dignity and taking charge of their lives again. We congratulated the Myrrh Bearers Greek Orthodox Society for their efforts and informed them that their proposal has been submitted to a number of donor agencies in hopes that some funding will be generated to jump-start their project.
Young Men Christian Association (YMCA)
In a discussion with the director of the YMCA, it was evident to me that this Y is like no other as its services adapt to the current realities and needs of Gaza. Started in 1952 on land donated by the Egyptian governor of Gaza at that time, the Y now offers a wide variety of services including operating a kindergarten, a strong athletics program in all major sports, leading training and community works management programs and a children’s human rights program. In addition, it organized a fine arts program until two years ago. During the war, the staff of the Y shifted to provide emergency aid and relief to alleviate the suffering of the displaced.
Approximately 25 percent of the recipients of the Y’s services are Christians of various ages. The premise was full of energy upon our arrival as children, youth, men and women as well as a few elderly members were actively engaged in various athletic and recreational activities. This is the only place in Gaza that provides recreation in a “mixed” environment and certainly a great asset to the families who live in prison-like conditions. Recently, the Y’s facilities were attacked in separate incidents by extremists with a clear message: there should not be interaction between the sexes with an expectation that activities are segregated — a move that will not materialize at this Y. We discussed ways in which we can be of assistance, especially in rehabilitating the children’s playground, the damaged library, as well as possible support for youth activities.
Holy Family School