Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Parish Priest of Gaza

He’s there with the Rosary Sisters, the Little Sisters of Jesus, the sisters of Mother Teresa, and that’s it. Of Catholic priests, of Latin rite there’s just him in Gaza, Father Manuel Musallam. Born in Birzeit in 1938, near Jerusalem, they saw him grow in the seminary of Beit Jalla and become priest in 1963. He was in a parish in Jordan, then in Jenin and finally, since 1993, in Gaza – where there is one parish, the only one, that goes back to 1747, The Holy Family Church. Father Manuel goes around armed only with the energy of priest out on the frontier, we would say here, and of his very great patience.
Over the week end Caritas Internationalis managed to contact him as on Friday a bomb destroyed a medical clinic that it owns.
The clinic, in the Al Maghazi district of Central Gaza, was completely destroyed in a bombing that also flattened four homes. At least another 20 homes sustained heavy damage in the blast. Families had already fled the area, so Caritas reported no injuries.
Close to 900 Palestinians have died after two weeks of fighting, and U.N. officials say that 40% of the dead are women and children.
Father Manuel Musallam, speaks of the "extreme fear" of the Gazans. "There is extreme fear everywhere here. The bombs the Israelis are dropping are literally cutting through people and through homes. Night and day the sound of children crying is everywhere. The people here don't sleep. They have lost everything. 70,000 people are living in schools and they are very cold. The ones who haven't gone to schools are living in their bathrooms or stairwells because they are afraid of being injured by shattering glass from bombs. There is no water here. We are almost out of diesel for our generator that we have allowed people to come and cook from. When the diesel runs out, we will have nothing. There are dead bodies lying on the streets. The clinics are carrying out operations on the floor. Women have no place to give birth. One pregnant woman was shot on her way to a clinic to give birth. They tried to save the baby but he, too, was dead. Life and death for people in Gaza is the same."
Please do keep Fr Manuel and his people in your prayers for Justice and Peace.

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