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ICC Note:
As a result of a new degree issued by the Hamas government that oversees the Gaza strip five Christian schools are threatened to be unable to offer classes for more than 1000 students when classes are scheduled to start in September. The decree issued by the government places a ban on co-educational classes for all students over the age of 10. The result of this action, which is just another of the many pressures on Christians living in this area, will be that the schools are forced to close as the funds do not exist to recruit enough teachers or space and the impact will ripple through the community having effects on both the Christian and Muslim families who were served by the schools.
7/18/2013 Gaza (PRWeb) – The Muslim government in the Gaza Strip has issued a decree prohibiting co-educational schools, according to Fr. Peter Vasko, President of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land (FFHL). The Hamas order threatens five Christian schools and a community of some 3,000 Christians.
Although the Catholic schools in the area are administered by the Latin Patriarch and not the Franciscan Custody, the decree is yet another threat to Christians in the Holy Land already under extreme pressure by both Israeli and Palestinian rule, Vasko added.
“Negotiations are going on between Christian leaders and the Prime Minister in Gaza,” Vasko said, “but as it stands right now, in September of 2013 mixed classes will be banned for students over the age of 10 and the classes will also have to have gender specific teachers.”
Vasko quoted Fr Faysal Hijazin, Director General of the Latin Patriarchate Schools in Palestine and Israel in Britain’s Catholic Herald as saying that if the ban on co-educational schools is allowed to stand, “they would have no choice but to close them.” The alternative would be to open separate schools for boys and girls and hire separate teachers for both to comply with Islamic law. The cost would be prohibitive, Vasko said, pointing out that, ironically, most of the students attending the schools are Muslim.
The three Catholic schools are the Latin Patriarchate School with 370 students, the Holy Family School with 650 students and the School of the Sisters of the Holy Rosary with about 100.
Travel, education and work for Christians in Israel are severely restricted, Vasko added, pointing out that cities like Bethlehem are completely surrounded by the Israeli security wall making it nearly impossible for Palestinian Christians to go to work, to school, to get medical attention or to attend religious celebrations at the Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.
The Franciscans have been responsible for the Holy Land for more than 800 years, and the FFHL operates more than 14 programs in Israel to help Christians with education, housing and employment opportunities. One could think of the Franciscan presence as a sort of glue that holds things in balance.
“Having to close schools that are there for the very reason not only to educate but to encourage peace and cooperation among the various groups is very counterproductive,” say Fr. Vasko.

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