Muslims and Christians find refuge under Gaza's oldest Church amid Israeli bombingtext_fields
Gaza City: In the midst of recent Israeli air raids and subsequent bombardment of Gaza, the Church of Saint Porphyrius, Gaza's oldest church, has emerged as a symbol of unity for Palestinians of different faiths seeking refuge from the violence.
As homes and neighbourhoods were destroyed in the air raids, Walaa Sobeh, a Palestinian Muslim, found sanctuary in the ancient walls of the church. Here, amidst the terror of exploding bombs, individuals from various religious backgrounds have come together, forming a makeshift community bound by a shared hope for survival.
The Greek Orthodox church, standing since the 12th century and named after the 5th-century bishop of Gaza, Saint Porphyrius, has become a place of solace for generations of Palestinians during times of fear.
Despite the escalating violence and the bombing of mosques and schools that have served as shelters, the Church of Saint Porphyrius has, so far, escaped Israeli missiles.
Father Elias, a priest at the church, acknowledges the uncertainty, stating, "I'm not sure that Israel won’t bomb the church," emphasizing that any such strike would not only be an attack on religion but also on humanity.
The ancient yards and sheltered corridors of the church now offer a haven for families who have nowhere else to go. George Shabeen, a Palestinian Christian, recounts how coming to the church saved their lives after their streets were targeted by Israeli air raids.
Here, Muslims and Christians, old and young, huddle together during the night, praying for safety and peace.
In the face of adversity, Sobeh sees the act of families from different religions coming together under the church's roof as a form of resistance. She asserts, "Israel’s purpose is to shatter our community and displace us. They might be able to kill us. But we will continue to be together as Palestinians, dead and alive, Muslims and Christians."