Calls for Support and Renewal in Gaza
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip, APRIL 30, 2009 (Zenit.org).- As Gaza's lone Catholic priest retires, he is noting the drastic decline of the city's situation and the need to support the Christian community there.
Aid to the Church in Need reported the statements of Monsignor Manuel Musallam, 71, today, hours before he leaves Gaza after serving 14 years as a parish priest for the approximately 5,000 Catholics.He underlined the need to stop the "Christian exodus" from the Middle East, stating that the Church members are "increasingly desperate to leave the region in search of a better future abroad."The priest reported: "The destruction has become deeper and deeper. Things are getting worse and worse. Many, many families are suffering."People cannot receive electricity all the time because there is a lack of fuel to run the generators. There is a shortage of clean water, sanity is poor. Education and medical care is also not good."Monsignor Musallam spoke about the impact of the recent Israeli military campaign against Gaza, which claimed over 1,100 lives, destroyed homes and left 400,000 people without running water. He added that this conflict was "just part of a cycle of decline" during his term as pastor.The priest reported: "The people are more aggressive. There is a lot more hate towards the situation they are in -- especially among the young."He continued: "Our precious trees have been uprooted.
Our buildings have been destroyed. Our streets have been destroyed."Our land has been burnt by bombs and so we cannot produce anything. We are just consumers now. The machines and cars are old. Everything needs to be renewed."
The monsignor expressed gratitude for the aid agency's help, noting that the community "felt strengthened by the support from outside" and saw in it "another way toward hope."He continued: "We admire very much the solidarity shown towards the people of this land. The friendship between Christians elsewhere in the world and here is very strong. We hope this link will continue for a long time. "The support and love shown to the people of Palestine will continue to encourage them to bear witness to Christ. We hope this will encourage them not to emigrate."Monsignor Musallam will retire in the West Bank town of Ramallah, close to family and friends. He will be succeeded by Argentine Father George Hermandes.The monsignor said: "I am leaving this place for ever. I am not anxious or sad. I have completed my job and my successor is in place."