Where They See the Light

Fares Akram reflects on church-affiliated institutions in Gaza.

Fares Akram is a journalist based in Gaza.

Two weeks before my wife, Alaa, delivered our second baby, I was at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, preparing to interview its directors and staff for the ONE magazine article that features the role of Christian organizations and institutions in serving the poor of the Gaza Strip.

Having seen how tranquil the hospital is, with its unique services and peaceful garden, I thought of bringing my wife to deliver in that hospital. And yes, this plan worked out; it was there that our daughter, Celine, saw the light by Caesarean section. Alaa said that she most liked the way in which nurses treated her and how skillful the surgeon was.

Church-affiliated organizations and centers offer a wide set of services in Gaza, the coastal enclave controlled by the Islamic Hamas movement. However, these services are not widely renowned, and the reason could be lack of proper promotion.

But having been through many of these institutions, I have seen and experienced the unique services they represent, from vocational training centers to hospitals and clinics.

These organizations demonstrate great determination by continuing to work in such hard circumstances, challenging Israeli restrictions on Gaza, lack of sufficient funding and operating under the Hamas government.

In Gaza, there are many charities and NGOs to help people, especially after the 2007 siege increased levels of poverty and hardship, but the Christian charities are much older and offer services that address the essential needs of the people. Only the Mother and Child Clinic, run by The Near East Council of Churches (N.E.C.C.), provides post-natal care for both mother and child.

During my reporting, I had come to see a mosque and a church embracing each other. It’s even not easy to distinguish between the two structures. The church also hosts Myrrh Bearers Society of the Orthodox Church, the decade-old charity that struggles to achieve its goals despite low levels of support.

To read more of Mr. Akram’s reporting on church-affiliated institutions in Gaza, see Behind the Blockade, from the March 2012 issue of ONE magazine.

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