The thousand-year-old church is now a refuge for Palestinians
Israel continues to carry out airstrikes in Gaza due to Hamas attacks. Walla Sobeh’s house was damaged in the attack. Most of the houses around him were also damaged. Many like Walla were looking for safe shelter with their families to save their lives. One of the oldest churches in Gaza has opened its doors for refuge.
Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based media outlet, reported that Wala did not only find safety in the church named after Saint Porphyrius. Rather he is getting the feeling of being with a family there. Many, like Walla, took refuge in the church of St. Porphyrius to escape Israeli attacks.Walla, seeing the atmosphere of the church, called his Muslim neighbors to come there as well.
Walla said, ‘We are spending here one day at a time and passing each night in the uncertainty of life. But our pain is reduced a little by the soft and warm attitude of everyone around. Church pastors and other volunteers are working tirelessly day and night to serve the sheltered people. They are helping us a lot.’
Although many infrastructures in Gaza have been damaged by Israeli attacks, no rockets have yet hit the Church of St. Porphyrius. And everyone sheltered inside has become a family.
Father Elias, priest of St. Porphyrius Church, said, ‘Many safe havens were destroyed by Israeli military bombs. This church hasn’t been bombed yet, but I’m not sure if it will survive in the end.’Several mosques and schools have been damaged in Gaza so far by Israeli bombardment.
Father Elias said, ‘An attack on our church will not only be considered as an attack on religion but also on humanity, which is a heinous act. Our humanity motivates us to give peace and comfort to people in need.’
The Church of Saint Porphyrius was built between 1150 and 1160. It is named after the fifth century bishop of Gaza, Saint Porphyrius.
George Shaben, the father of four children of a Palestinian Christian family who took refuge in the church, said that his area was devastated by three Israeli airstrikes. He somehow managed to reach the church with his family.
Shaben said, ‘Life has been saved by coming here. At night, all of us who take shelter here hang out together. We Muslims, Christians, young and old all pray for safety and peace.’
Walla said, ‘Israel wants to tear apart our community and make us homeless. They might even kill us. But living or dead, Muslim or Christian, in any case we will coexist as residents of Palestine.’