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Gaza Baptist Church Seized

2007-02-06 Palestine (Open Doors USA) Palestinian Authority (PA) police of the Fatah party have seized the six-story Gaza Baptist Church building as a watch point against militants supporting the governing Hamas movement.
Hanna Massad, pastor of Gaza Baptist Church , wrote in a Feb. 3 prayer SOS that late on Feb. 2, PA police officers demanded the building key from the church’s lone guard. The guard, who had no key, informed church leaders, who refused to give the key to police. Police then broke into the building, taking up positions on the sixth floor. The guard called a church leader, who informed Massad.

Because of the battles raging on Gaza ’s streets, Massad has been unable to leave his house to check on the building, he told Open Doors. Brother Andrew spoke at the new building’s dedication in November 2006. The building houses the church’s sanctuary, Gaza ’s only Christian library, a guest hostel and a mammogram clinic.

Massad described the crisis as “the worst situation we ever went through in Gaza .”

Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller, who also attended the building dedication last November, says: “Christians and Muslims in Gaza are caught in the crossfire. And it’s getting worse. Please pray with me for Pastor Massad. It is so vital that the Gaza Baptist Church remains open so ministry can be carried out to those who are even now more marginalized. My heart goes out to all of them; many of whom I personally met last November.”

Gaza fighting pits forces controlled by the secular Fatah party, including the police, against the majority Islamic party Hamas. Should PA police fire at Hamas militants from the commandeered church, reprisal fire could severely damage the building as has happened before, the pastor said.

A fresh cease-fire was declared Sunday evening, but there was no indication it would be any more successful than previous truces in recent weeks of factional fighting, reported the Associated Press (AP) on Sunday. Gaza Baptist Church leader Khader Khoury noted that nine cease-fire attempts have occurred in five days.

Even if police abandon the church building, gunfire flies on the streets as rival factions vie for control. Frightened Gazans remain in their homes. Massad told Open Doors Sunday morning that early worship had been cancelled because Gaza is “not stable.”

Gaza had a “noisy morning” Sunday. “Some shooting here and there,” Massad said.

“It’s a very dangerous situation. It’s in God’s hands,” he said. “Nothing I can do, nothing anybody else can do can help the situation. He’s the one who protects.”

The Gaza Strip’s border is closed, locking 1.4 million Palestinians in a coastal territory just 27 miles long and 5 miles deep. Food and other basics are running short, reported AP on Sunday.

Prayer requests:

* God will protect Gaza ’s believers.
* Believers will experience the power of God’s peace.
* God will give Massad strength and wisdom to minister.
* There will be no gunfire around the church building and that God will protect this building for His glory.
* Gaza ’s leaders will receive wisdom to stop the fighting.