Pressure Intensifies for Gaza Christians

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JERUSALEM - In Gaza, pressure against the small Christian community is intensifying.

Islamic extremists are continuing efforts to eradicate Christians and their institutions. The latest effort against Gaza's small Christian minority centers around this Palestinian Bible Society bookstore.

Evangelicals have worked out of this shop for early a decade, bringing help and hope to Gaza's 1.5 million residents.

Now the landlord, under pressure from militant muslims, is suing to evict the Christians.

Hanna massad is pastor of the Gaza Baptist Church. He said in recent years, persecution has become a way of life for Gaza Christians - a community that has dwindled to less than 2,000 people.

The Bible Society bookstore has been bombed twice since early 2006. This year two attacks have occurred against a Gaza Christian school.

"To be a follower of Christ in Gaza and to be a disciple for the Lord in Gaza, this could cost you your life," Hanna said. "And the question is, how far are you willing to go to follow the steps of the Lord? Are you going to follow him from far away or are you willing to go all the way?"

Tweny-nine-year-old Rami Ayyad was willing to go all the way. He was inspired by the faith of the Malatya martyrs - three Christians murdered in Turkey last year.

Rami told fellow Christians he wished he could die such a noble death. His wish was realized last October when militant Muslims kidnapped Rami and shot him to death.

After his murder, Rami's wife Pauline gave birth to their third child Sama. His name means "heaven."

Pastor Hanna says Pauline has chosen to remain in Gaza to continue her husband's ministry.

"She believed that Satan, when he killed Ramim he tried to kill Christ which was in Rami," Hanna said. "He tried to kill the testimony of the Christian faith and this is why she continues to go forward and continue to serve the Lord and continues the ministry and the work which is close to Rami's heart."

As for the Gaza Christians who live under fire everyday, Pastor Hanna says they are encouraged by believers around the world.

"One of the main things that inspired us is what God called us to do," he said. "But also that we belong to a wonderful body, the body of Christ, that we are part of this wonderful family, family of God and to have brothers and sisters who really care and who are really praying for us.That means a lot to us."

*Original broadcast August 1, 2008.

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